On its face, evaluating whether an injury is a work injury seems relatively simple. If you are on a family vacation in a different country and break your leg on a water slide, this clearly is not work-related. Conversely, if you trip while carrying a new water jug to the dispenser in your office kitchen, this is likely to be a work-related injury… UNLESS your employer expressly told you not to refill the water dispenser under any circumstance and you disobeyed a direct instruction from your employer. This second example highlights the gray areas that exist in determining whether your injury is, in fact, work-related. To understand what isn’t a work injury, we will first explore what is a work injury.
Work injuries must occur in the “course and scope” of your employment with your employer. This means your injury must occur in a situation where you are engaged in the furtherance of your employer’s business or affairs. If you are in furtherance of your employer’s business or affairs, your injury can occur on or off your employer’s premises. Examples of this are if you normally work a desk job but your boss requests you attend a meeting on his behalf and you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, your injuries were sustained in the course and scope of your employment.
If you are not working in furtherance of your employer’s business/affairs, you are still in the course and scope of your employment if you can show that you were injured while on your employer’s premises, where your employer conducts its business and affairs, you were required by the nature of your employment to be present on your employer’s premises, and you sustained injuries caused by the condition of your employer’s premises or its business and affairs thereon. An example of this would be you being struck by a ceiling panel while eating lunch in the break room of your employer’s office. You probably aren’t eating lunch to further your employer’s business, but you are required to work at the office each day and were injured by a condition of that office. Therefore, this injury is most likely compensable.
In 1981, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court made an exception to the course and scope rule when it determined that an injury does not need to occur in the course and scope of employment, if the cause of the injury occurred in the course and scope of employment. Put simply, an injury does not need to occur at work if the injury is caused by some kind of stimulus that occurred at or as a result of work. In the 1981 Supreme Court case, the Court determined that an injured worker’s heart attack was causally related to his employment despite the fact that the injury occurred at home. This is a very small exception to the course and scope rule and is only applicable in a small portion of cases. In order to be successful in proving a causal relationship to employment, you must provide unequivocal medical testimony supporting your claim. As you can see, what qualifies as a work injury is not nearly as cut and dry as you may have initially thought. If you believe you have suffered a work injury and have questions about whether you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, please call Pearson Koutcher Law right away. One of our workers’ compensation attorneys would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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