The state of North Carolina abides by the so-called “coming-and-going rule” when it comes to injuries sustained by an employee who is traveling to or from his place of employment.
Generally speaking, these injuries will not be covered by workers’ compensation unless the worker is driving a vehicle furnished by the employer as an incident to the contract of employment, or if the injuries were sustained while the worker was on a premises owned or controlled by employer.
In a recent case out of Georgia, a pastry chef suffered grievous injuries in February last year while on her way to her place of employment, a local bread bakery and cafe. According to news reports, she was astride her bicycle when a car driver ran over her.
At the time, she was less than a mile from her work.
However, she was not at work. She was not on a delivery for work. She was simply commuting on her way to work. Although news reports of a recent settlement agreement make no mention of a workers’ compensation claim, it’s unlikely one would have been successful in this case, given the circumstances.
There have been some cases in which workers going to and from the job have been able to secure benefits, which cover medical bills and a portion of lost wages.
The advantage of workers’ compensation, where it is applicable, is that if one is acting in the course and scope of employment, negligence is not as big of a factor, if at all. So for example in this case, if the chef had been on her bicycle while on a delivery and crossed illegally into the path of the motor vehicle driver, she may have still been able to collect workers’ compensation, even if she’d been negligent. And in that same scenario, if it was shown she was not negligent, she could have pursued both workers’ compensation AND third-party compensation from the driver.
However, the scenario here was not that she was at work or carrying out some duty for her employer. She was simply on her way to work.
The upside of this, though, is that because she was not negligent, she was free to pursue damages from the insurer of the at-fault driver.
In the Georgia district court case of Lambert v. Weakley, the driver in question not only ran over plaintiff, the vehicle sat on top of her for nearly 20 minutes until local fire and rescue workers could lift it off with an emergency hydraulic pump. As a result of the crash, she suffered severe fractures of her hip and other pelvis bones. The broken bone in one of her shoulders protruded from the skin. She also suffered a total of 13 broken ribs, plus a closed head injury and facial cuts. She was hospitalized for nearly a month, and suffered medical bills in excess of $220,000 and lost wages of nearly $30,000. She has since been unable to return to work.
The driver of the car had admitted fault and was cited by police for failure to yield the right of way.
Trial had been slated for this month, but a settlement was reached following an eight-hour mediation the day before trial. Ultimately, plaintiff settled for $850,000 in damages.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Pastry Chef Run Over by Car While Riding Bike to Work Settles for $850K, Aug. 5, 2015, By Katheryn Hayes Tucker, Daily port
More Blog Entries:
SC HB 4197 Proposes Workers’ Compensation Alternative, Aug. 8, 2015, Greensboro Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog