Winter brings bad weather and and with bad weather comes an increase in on-the-job accidents. Common situations include on-the-job automobile accidents, and slips and falls going to and from a car, in the parking lot or navigating to the job site. Especially at risk are critical workers who have to brave bad weather conditions, including nurses, power company employees, police officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers.
Even without bad weather, slips, trips and falls are an important cause of workplace injuries in NC. According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls, slips, or trips accounted for 27% of all occupational illness and injuries nationwide in 2014 with 316,650 days-away-from-work cases. The question is when is a slip, trip or fall covered by workers’ comp in NC?
In many circumstances an injury related to a slip, trip or fall is covered by workers’ comp in NC. Workers’ compensation in North Carolina covers injuries that occur by accident and during the course and scope of the employment. An accident in NC workers’ comp law is something unexpected or out of the ordinary, so a slip, trip or fall generally meets that criteria. So often the question is whether the accident “arises out of” or is “in the course and scope of” the employment. If the accident occurs at the place of work, then generally any injury that results from the slip, trip or fall is covered by workers’ comp in NC. But things can get tricky when the employee is on the way to or from work. In that case, some general NC workers’ comp laws apply.
The Coming and Going Rule in NC Workers’ Comp
Accidents that occur while going to or returning from work are generally not covered by workers’ comp in North Carolina. Dangers present while traveling to and from work are considered common to the general public and not a peculiar risk to employment. However, there are exceptions to the coming and going rule in NC workers’ comp.
The Contractual Duty Exception to the Coming and Going Rule
When the employer agrees to provide the transportation for the employee to and from work then an accident going to or from the job will usually be covered under workers’ compensation law in North Carolina. This applies when: 1) the employer arranges for transportation for the employee, such as in a company van, 2) the employer provides the employee a vehicle for the employee to use going to and from work; 3) an employer reimburses the employee for gas or mileage for going to or from work.
The Special Errand Rule
An employee who is injured in in NC may be covered under NC workers’ comp laws if he or she is injured while performing an errand or duty beyond the normal requirements of his his or her job, even if the injury occurs off the job site. The special errand rule only applies when the employee is acting in a way that benefits his or her employer. When an employee is engaged in a special errand for the benefit of his or her employer the “coming and going” rule does not apply. For example, an employee who stops at the bank on the way to work to make a deposit for his or her employer may be covered by workers’ comp in NC if he or she is in an auto accident.
The Dual Purpose Rule
When an employee is engaged in travel that is at least partly for the benefit of the employer an accident may be covered by workers’ comp in NC even if the travel also served an additional personal purpose for the worker. For example if an employee who is sent to the bank by his or her employer also cashes his or her own personal check, then an injury during that trip will likely be covered by NC workers’ comp.
The Traveling Salesman Exception in NC Workers’ Comp
Injuries sustained while traveling by an employee who is required to travel as a part of his or her job are usually covered under workers’ comp in North Carolina. These injuries are not subject to the “coming and going” rule. A worker who must travel away from his or her regular workplace as part of his employment is continuously within the course of his or her employment during such travel. An employee whose job requires travel who steps away from employment by taking a departure on a personal errand may not be covered. Once an employee returns from a deviation to travels related to employment, any injury from an accident would again be covered by North Carolina workers’ compensation.
Please call or email if you would like more information about when a slip, trip or fall is covered by workers’ comp in NC. Kevin Bunn is a Board Certified Expert in NC Workers’ Comp Law. He offers a free consultation to injured workers across North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Rocky Mount, Greensboro, Wilmington, Greenville, Wilson, Cary, and Fayetteville. It is particularly important to call if your claim has been denied or if you have been offered a NC workers’ compensation settlement.