Can I Get Workers’ Comp if I Was Injured Traveling to Work?
North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws are designed to provide benefits to employees who are hurt on the job. But what does it mean to be “on the job”? That can be a very complicated question. Many of our clients wonder, “Can I get workers’ comp if I was injured while traveling to work in North Carolina?”
In some situations, it is obvious when an employee is on the job. He or she is punched in, on the clock, and on company ground, doing the work his or her supervisor designates.
But what if the employee is on his lunch break? What if he is on a smoke break? What if he is in the bathroom? Or on the way to the bathroom? And of course, what if you’re traveling to work when you’re injured? These situations become much more complicated.
In determining whether an employee is “on the job” in these situations, the Industrial Commission will look to numerous fact specific questions.
- Was the employee on the clock?
- If he was not on the clock, was he really free to do what he wanted or was it some sort of mandated break where he must stay on company grounds?
- Is he “on call” and subject to being told to punch back in at any time?
- Was he on company grounds?
- Was he on grounds controlled by the employer?
- Was he in the vicinity of company grounds (for example, an employee outside his company premises, getting ready to unlock the door)?
“Furthering the Employer’s Interests”
Was the employee “furthering the employer’s interests”? Even if an employee is not precisely doing his job, he or she might be doing something that advances the interest of his employer. Think of an employee who makes a breakfast run and picks up food for his co-workers.
Was the employee “on call”? In today’s modern economy, many employees use email from their cell phones, or make phone calls related to work from home or from their cars. Some employees make bank deposits on their way home from work. They pick up snacks or cleaning products from the store for the company break room. They attend company sponsored basketball games, or holiday parties. They volunteer at the Food Bank with other employees, and the company posts their picture to its Facebook page. There is some argument that employees in all these situations are actually “on the job”.
Workers’ Comp for Injuries Suffered While Traveling for Work
There are also many of us who travel for work. In these situations, the Industrial Commission will ask if the employee was in a company-owned vehicle, or if the employer was reimbursing for gas or mileage. If so, then even an employee traveling to or from work might be considered to be “on the job.” The Commission will also ask if the employee has one certain place where he works or if he works in multiple locations.
Keep this important distinction in mind:
If an employee drives to work in the same place every day, then his drive is less likely to be considered “on the job.” But if he goes to a different place every day (think of a framer for a construction crew, or a home healthcare aid) then his drive to and from work is more likely to be considered part of his job.
If an employee travels out of town, the whole trip may be considered “on the job.” There are cases where employees were out at hotels and they slipped and fell, and their claims were deemed to be compensable workers’ compensation claims because the reason they were staying at the hotel was because it was a necessity for their job.
Of course, for each of these situations, there is a contrary argument. An insurance company can make the argument that these individuals were not really “on the job.” And in each instance, there is a lot of grey area.
For all of these reasons, it’s important to talk to an experienced North Carolina workers’ comp lawyer early on in your case.
Why Riddle & Brantley for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?
For more than three decades, the workers’ comp attorneys at Riddle & Brantley have been helping injured North Carolina workers get the benefits they need and deserve. Our attorneys have over 220+ years of combined legal experience and our Board-Certified Specialists in Workers’ Comp have helped hundreds of North Carolinians obtain benefits (see disclaimer below).
Recent case results (see disclaimer below) include:
- $2,475,000 | Traumatic Brain Injury — Our client, a welder on a construction site, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fall from a platform while on the job. We negotiated total compensation of $2.475 million with the insurance carrier, and also helped the family establish a guardianship and two trusts to help ensure his long-term care.
- $1,800,000 | Loss of Limb — A truck driver eventually lost his left leg as a result of a terrible truck accident while he was on the job. Attorney Gene Riddle represented him in the case, negotiating separate settlements with the workers’ comp carrier and the truck insurance company, totaling $1.8 million in total compensation.
- $800,000 | Severe Head Injury — Attorney Chris Brantley took the case when a man was injured while scouting locations for cell towers. He suffered severe head injury when a tree fell on him. We negotiated a $800,000 total settlement with the insurance company, including payment of all medical bills and the waiver of a medical lien.
*** Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.
For a FREE consultation with an attorney and Board-Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation, please call 1-800-525-7111 or fill out the convenient form below.
There is no obligation and you won’t pay any attorneys unless we win your case and you receive workers’ comp benefits.
Justice Counts for injured North Carolina workers and we would love to help you seek justice if we can.