In certain circumstances, an employee may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits if they are injured in a work-related car accident. The question is, what is a work-related car accident? If you are injured while driving to work, are you eligible for benefits? What if you are in an accident while on a business trip? While out getting coffee for your supervisor? These are important questions, because if an accident is covered, 100 percent of your authorized medical treatment will be covered, including co-pays. Your personal auto insurance may not cover all of these bills. Covered employees also receive temporary disability benefits that are paid out at a higher rate than New Jersey’s temporary disability insurance benefits or those paid by a private short-term disability plan.
The original 1911 Workers’ Compensation Act did not address the issue of car accidents, but provided compensation for employees injured in accidents “arising out of and in the course of employment.” The courts developed a rule, known as the “going and coming rule” or the “premises rule” to address the issue. This rule provides that employees who are injured while commuting to or from work are not entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. However, so many exceptions to this rule were carved out, that the rule itself was virtually swallowed. So the New Jersey legislature enacted a statutory provision to address the issue, N.J.S.A. 34:15-36.
Pursuant to this rule, commuting employees are not entitled to Workers’ Compensation unless they are on a special mission for their employer, or on paid travel time. If an employer sends you away from your usual workplace on an errand or task relating to your job, this is a “special-mission,” and any accident that occurs while on the “mission” will likely be covered by Workers’ Compensation.
The paid travel time exception grants coverage to workers injured in an accident while:
- on paid travel time to or from a distant job site, or
- driving a company car to or from a distant job site, on business authorized by the employer, or
- in a carpooling arrangement if a company car is used, or the employer requires the employee to participate in the carpool
There are still many other exceptions to the going and coming rule. The laws addressing this issue are very nuanced and always developing. For example, technology has raised some new questions. If you are involved in an accident while talking on a business call on your way to work, will you be covered by Workers’ Compensation? Depending on the specific facts, the answer is probably yes. Even if you are at fault for the accident, you are likely still covered under Workers’ Compensation.
Another facet of this issue was highlighted by a recent case where a Harrah’s employee was pulling out of the casino parking lot when she was struck by another car. She was badly injured. At the time of the accident, her car was partially on a public street, but partially in Harrah’s parking lot. She filed for Workers’ Compensation but Harrah’s denied responsibility. A judge found that since part of her car was in Harrah’s parking lot, she was entitled to medical and temporary disability benefits. Harrah’s appealed, arguing that at the time, the woman’s body was in the driver’s seat, which was on the public road at the time of the accident. But the Superior Court upheld her award, because her car was still partially in her employer’s parking lot.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Shebell & Shebell Represent Employees Injured in Work-Related Car Accidents
As these cases illustrate, Workers’ Compensation law can be very nuanced and complex. To speak with an experienced lawyer about your case, call us at 866-957-5237 or contact us online today.