Motor Vehicle Accidents and Workers’ Compensation
Let’s say you’re driving to your job on a rainy Monday morning and you’re involved in an accident, as a result of which you’re injured and can’t work. It’s bad enough that it’s a rainy Monday, and now you have had an accident. Will you be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because your accident happened on your way to work? Based on a long established workers’ compensation law in Pennsylvania called “the coming and going rule,” you would probably not have a claim for benefits. That rule provides that if you have a fixed place of employment — in other words, you go to the same office, warehouse, or store to work every day – and your accident occurs during your commute (either going to or coming from work), you are not in the course of your employment and are not covered by workers’ compensation.
However, there are exceptions to that rule. If you do not have a fixed place to employment but travel from location to location to do your job, you are considered a traveling employee and the coming and going rule does not apply. So if you are an HVAC technician and are injured in an accident driving from your home to your first call of the day, you will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Another exception is if you have entered into an employment contract which includes travel to and from your job. Therefore, if you have a contract with your employer that provides you are paid from the time that you drive from home to your workplace, the coming and going rule will not bar you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured in an accident.
You may also get around the coming and going rule if you are injured while in an accident traveling to a special assignment for your employer, or there are special circumstances present in which you were furthering the business of your employer. So if you were told by your boss to attend a one-time meeting in a different location from where you normally work, this would fall in the category of a special assignment or special circumstances, giving you protection under workers’ compensation law if you are injured in an accident driving to or from the meeting. But if you attend a meeting every month and get injured en route, you may not be able to defeat the coming and going rule because this meeting is considered a regular part of your job.
It is also important for you to know that if you sustain injuries in a motor vehicle accident while in the course of your employment, even if you were at fault in the accident, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If you were not at fault, in addition to filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may file a claim against the other driver who caused your accident. This is referred to as a “third-party” claim because you are seeking to recover money against the third party who caused you to sustain injuries in the accident. If you recover money in your workers’ compensation claim and your third party case, the workers’ compensation insurance company will be entitled to recoup a portion of the money that it paid. This concept is called subrogation. The theory is that had it not been for the other driver’s negligence in causing the accident, you would have not been injured, and there would have been no workers’ compensation claim. So if money is recovered against the negligent party, the workers’ compensation insurance company has a right to subrogation and may recover a piece of the money.
The experienced lawyers at Pearson Koutcher Law can properly advise you if you are injured in a motor vehicle accident that you believe may have occurred in the course of your employment. Please call us so we may fully explain your rights to you.
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