Workers’ compensation in North Carolina is designed to cover employees who suffered an injury on the job. As such, if you’re injured in the course of doing your work, your losses are covered by workers’ compensation.
If you are on your way to work or are on your way home from work, however, the matter is far less clear. A better understanding of when you’re covered and when you’re not can help you better protect your rights in the event you’re injured on the job.
If this is the challenging situation you find yourself in, consulting with an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney is in your best interest.
The North Carolina Coming and Going Rule
In order for your injuries to be covered by workers’ compensation, they must occur during the course of your work and must be caused by that work. There are two facets to this requirement, including:
- The injury must arise out of your employment, which means that there is a causal relationship between your work and the accident in question.
- The injury must arise in the course of your employment, which means the time, place, and circumstances of the injury-causing accident must be related to your work.
The coming and going rule specifies that the act of driving to and from work is something that employees generally face, which makes the involved risk common to all. As such, employees typically aren’t covered when they are traveling to and from work.
Ultimately, driving to and from work fails to satisfy the prong requiring that the injury arises in the course of employment. Therefore, having a car accident on the way to work – or on the way home – is not covered under workers’ compensation except in highly specific circumstances.
Workers’ Compensation: The Gray Areas
The law recognizes that one’s employment can begin a reasonable amount of time prior to work getting started for the day and can extend a reasonable amount of time beyond quitting time. Further, the breaks that employees take throughout the day are also recognized as arising from employment. However, accidents that occur during these times are in something of a gray area and, as a result, are more likely to end in litigation.
Taking a Closer Look at Coming and Going
The question of whether workers’ compensation covers travel to and from work is not a black-and-white matter. There are exceptions to the rule.
For example, North Carolina has deemed the following situations to be in the course of one’s employment:
- The injury in question happened when the employee was on the employer’s premises.
- The injury in question happened when the employee was performing a special errand for the employer.
- The injury in question happened in the course of transportation that was arranged pursuant to the employment contract or in the course of driving to or from work when the employee was compensated for these transportation costs.
Examples of when these exceptions commonly apply include the following:
- When an employee suffers an injury in a parking lot that is owned, controlled, or maintained by the employer
- When an employee is traveling to or from work but has to make a stop to pick up something for work – as requested by their employer
- When an employee is on a business trip or on a trip that combines both business and pleasure
The Dual-Purpose Rule
For the special errand exception to apply, the employer must benefit in some way. For instance, if an employee stops to pick up a supply that’s needed at work that would have otherwise required a separate trip, the dual-purpose rule applies.
In other words, the employee’s drive to work had more than one purpose, and one of them benefited their employer.
When an employee is on a business trip that includes a personal vacation component, the line between when business ends and personal time begins can be especially challenging. One test North Carolina courts have used is whether or not the employee would have canceled the trip if the work component fell through.
If the employee would have made the trip anyway, then the travel is likely to be considered personal, and if not, it’s more likely to be deemed related to work.
When an employee suffers an injury in the process of traveling to or from a work function, such as a holiday party, the court takes six primary factors into consideration in the determination of compensability.
Consider the following:
- Whether or not attendance at the function was voluntary
- Whether the employer encouraged employees to attend the function, and if so, to what degree
- Whether the function was sponsored by the employer
- Whether the function was financed by the employer, and if so, to what extent
- Whether employees considered the function a benefit of employment to which they were entitled
- Whether the employer benefitted in some tangible way from the function, such as having the opportunity to make a speech
Injured on the Way to or from Work? Discuss Your Claim with an Experienced North Carolina Workers’ Comp Attorney
Workers’ compensation claims are exceptionally complicated, and if you’ve suffered an injury on the way to or from work, the matter is that much more so. There are instances that should be explored in which workers’ compensation may cover your injuries, and the North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Horton & Mendez – proudly serving both Wilmington and Leland – have the experience and keen legal insight to help.
To learn more, contact us online or call us at 910-415-1088 today.
Workers’ Compensation FAQs
If I was driving to work, is there any chance I’m covered?
In certain circumstances, employees can be covered by workers’ compensation when they’re driving to and from work.
How do I know if I have a claim for a car accident during a work function?
Discussing the matter with a workers’ compensation attorney is the surest means of determining if you have a claim.
Do I really need an attorney?
Workers’ compensation claims involving off-site injuries are so complicated that it is always in your best interest to have a formidable workers’ compensation attorney in your corner.