Employers are responsible for covering an employee's losses from a work-related injury, including medical bills and missed time at work. In order to qualify for workers' compensation, a "work-related" injury doesn't necessarily have to happen in the office or on the job site. An injury at a work-sponsored party at a bowling alley, for example, would be covered; but driving to work is usually not considered a work-related activity within the context of employer liability.
According to the "going and coming" rule, worker's compensation benefits do not apply to injuries sustained while commuting to or from work, with exceptions. Although one could argue that the commute is job-related, the going and coming rule was not intended for that and has been consistently applied.
But there are instances where driving from Point A to Point B is in fact considered work-related. Driving to multiple job sites within a shift, for example, is not considered "going and coming" and usually is covered through workers' compensation. This and other exceptions to the going and coming rule are discussed below. See FindLaw's Workers' Compensation Basics section for more articles, including Common Workers' Compensation Defenses.
Exceptions to the Going and Coming Rule
Be aware that there are certain exceptions to the going and coming rule, such as driving between work sites during a shift, that may effect your claim. These exceptions include the following:
1. Commuting in a Company Car
Driving your own car to work is exempted by the going and coming rule. But commuting in a company-owned vehicle is often covered (in most states). The company car has to be used for commuting to and from a fixed location in some states, while others define this more broadly. For example, it might be argued that a car emblazoned with a company's logo is always being used for work-related activity (essentially, as a moving advertisement).
2. Traveling as Part of Your Major Job Duty
If your normal job duty involves traveling, then it goes well beyond simply commuting to a work site. This would include pilots, truck drivers, bus drivers, state troopers, etc. As long as the injury occurred in the course of your major job duties, as opposed to driving your personal car to the station for your shift as a bus driver, it should be covered.
Injury claims for railroad injuries are handled through the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
3. Traveling Between Multiple Job Sites
Using your personal vehicle to go to different job sites within one shift is considered job-related usage under most state workers' comp laws. This may include a computer technician driving from one office building to another or the employee of a landscaping company driving to different job sites.
4. Commercial Traveler
According to most laws, all of the time spent away on a business trip is considered to be within the scope of employment. So even though the traveling employee attends a conference for only eight hours each day, the entire time spent traveling is considered work-related.
5. Special Mission
If your manager hands you some cash and asks you to stop and get her a coffee drink before work the next morning, she is asking you to perform a "special mission." Even if it's completely unrelated to work, such as walking your boss's dog, employers generally are liable for injuries related to these extra tasks.
Still Confused About the Going and Coming Rule? An Attorney Can Help
It's not always clear whether an injury that seems work related is covered by workers' compensation. If any of the exceptions to the going and coming rule listed above apply to your injury, you may have a claim for benefits. Have an experienced workers' comp attorney help you make the right decisions and get the compensation you're owed.
Contact a qualified workers' compensation attorney to make sure your rights are protected.