Most people receive or expect to receive workers’ compensation benefits for work related injuries that happen at their office, factory, or other physical space recognized as their worksite. However, not all jobs require employees to remain at a set location all day or provide a physical worksite. Some employers even require employees to run work related errands on the employee’s way to or from work. These are examples of situations that can turn bad for an employee who gets injured and finds himself unsure if he will be covered by the same workers’ compensation protections as other employees in more traditional settings. If an employee is away from the work location or in transit when he gets injured, he may run into some issues in terms of receiving compensation, but may nevertheless be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits like any other employee.
Employers in South Carolina are legally required to provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees who are injured during the course or scope of their employment. Determining when, where, and under what circumstances an employee is injured can therefore be very important when an employee is injured away from a work location or while not actually engaged in an activity that could be considered part of his official work duties. These kinds of injuries can occur in circumstances where the employer is providing housing or transportation for employees, or requiring the employee to fulfill duties outside of official work hours.
Employees Transiting To Work
Generally, employees are not entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries that occur when they are leaving their homes to go to work. A driver who suffers injuries as a result of a car accident on the highway on his normal commute driving from his house to work in his personal car is not likely to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for those injuries.
However, for some employees transiting to work is so connected to their employment that they may be covered if they suffer any in transit injuries. South Carolina law recognizes exceptions to the general rule barring workers’ compensation benefits for employees who are going to and from work in the following situations:
- When, in going to and returning from work, the means of transportation is provided by the employer or the employee’s time in transit is compensated by the employer either through mileage reimbursement or in wages;
- The employee is required to perform some duty or task in connection with his employment while going to work or returning home;
- The road used by the employee is inherently dangerous and is either (a) the exclusive way of ingress and egress to and from his work, or (b) constructed and maintained by the employer;
- The place of injury is near the employer’s premises or worksite;
- The employee is carrying out a special task or errand for the employer that is not normally part of his employment.
Employees who drive from one employer site to another several times a day and have no fixed office, or who are required to driver company cars all day as part of their job duties are likely to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they get injured while driving.
Employer Provided Housing
When an employer hires employees and provides housing, transportation to and from the worksite, and even recreational facilities, courts have found that the employee is continuously in the scope of employment, and the employer can therefore be required to pay an employee injured in the housing area workers’ compensation benefits. This is known as the bunkhouse rule, and the housing provided is considered an extension of the employer’s worksite. For example, a worker who is essentially required to be housed on site may be compensated by the employer for an injury sustained if the worker slips on the sidewalk outside his housing site and breaks his leg. Courts are likely to side with an injured employee seeking benefits if the employee basically has no choice but to live on site in employer provided housing due to the nature and hours required for the work.
Personal Errands while Still on the Clock
Employees who may be required to run an errand for the employer on the way home from work may sometimes engage in a personal errand at the same time. For example, an employee who is required to pick up the employer’s dry cleaning may pick up his own dry-cleaning at the same time, or one who is required to buy groceries as part of her job duties may pick up an item or two for herself while shopping for the employer. Such an employee who gets injured while engaged in a personal errand may still receive workers’ compensation benefits because he was likely only at the dry cleaners or grocery store at the time of the injury in order to fulfill the employer’s needs. Courts sometimes look to see if the employees would still have deviated from their drive home to go accomplish the personal task were it not for the necessity to fulfill the employer’s task. This approach seems fairer than penalizing the employee for taking five or 10 minutes to complete their personal task. The key factor in determining whether the employee would qualify for benefits would be the nature of the personal errand and how long of a deviation it presents from the assigned work related task. If the employee takes half the time or more time completing the personal errand than the employer assigned task, then it begin to look more like the personal errand was the main goal of the trip, and the employee may not receive benefits for any injuries sustained.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
Regardless of where your injury took place, if you were injured while engaged in a work related task, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. Employers and insurance companies often fight and dispute claims from employees if the injuries were sustained off site or while an employee was going to or leaving work. Even if your employer has already disputed your ability to receive benefits, you can appeal a denial and receive compensation while you are out of work. Call an experienced Greenville, South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney from Bryan Ramey & Associates for a FREE consultation today.