Since the coronavirus crisis reared its ugly head, many people have been instructed by their employers to do their jobs at home by using their laptops, cell phones, and other tools. If you’re one of these workers and happen to injure yourself, would you be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits? It’s a good question, and we want to provide you with a detailed answer.
At first blush, you might think that if you’re injured at home, it could not possibly be covered by workers’ comp. While that would be a reasonable supposition, you would be wrong. Actually, if you are doing your job — making phone calls, sending emails, and writing reports — at a desk in your home office, and you reach down and pick up a box of work manuals from the floor and feel a pop in your back, causing severe pain, you have a viable workers’ comp. claim. It doesn’t matter that it occurred at home — under this scenario, you were in the course of your employment when your injury occurred. In other words, you were furthering your employer’s business. In fact, this would hold true if you were working in another part of your house. If you have set up your laptop and other work materials at your dining room table or kitchen table, you have effectively transformed this area into your workspace, so it has become an extension of your employer’s premises. So if you hurt your back picking up a box of manuals off of your kitchen floor, it would be the same as if you picked up a box off of your office floor.
You would also have a workers’ comp. claim if you injure yourself at home while taking a momentary break from work. In workers’ comp. law parlance, it’s called the personal comfort doctrine. If you go to the kitchen to grab a soda out of your refrigerator and slip on water on the hallway, twisting your knee, you have a legitimate workers’ comp. claim.
However, this does not extend to any injury you sustain at home. If you work for three hours at your dining room table, and then go down the basement to check your heater and trip on your son’s toys, causing you to fracture your wrist, you probably will not be entitled to workers’ comp. benefits. This is because even though you were working at your dining room table in the morning and intended to resume working in the afternoon, by going down the basement to check on your heater, you abandoned your employment, taking you outside the course and scope of your employment.
If you are working at home and sustain an injury, you should take the same steps that you would if you got hurt in your normal workplace. Notify your supervisor promptly (call, email, or text), explaining what you were doing when you got injured and that you want to seek medical attention for your injury. If your supervisor provides you with a list of designated health care providers for work injuries (or if you have seen a list posted at your workplace), you should pick one of the providers and go there for an evaluation and treatment. If your employer does not have a list, you can choose the medical provider so go to your local emergency room or contact your primary care doctor for an appointment.
If you hurt yourself while working at home or at your usual workplace, please contact Pearson Koutcher Law. Workers’ comp. is all we do and we will provide you with a free, comprehensive consultation and represent you in your claim.