Workers' compensation is a system designed to financially support workers who get injured or ill as a result of their job. In California, benefits provided by workers' compensation include medical treatment for work-related injuries, lost wages (known as temporary disability benefits), permanent loss of function (referred to as permanent disability benefits), and job displacement benefits such as retraining.
However, not all injuries and illnesses are covered by workers' compensation, and claims can be denied for a variety of reasons. To be eligible for workers' comp, the injury must have occurred during the course of employment and must arise out of work-related activities. If an injury happens while an employee is on a break or if it can't be proven that work duties were more than 50% responsible for the injuries, the claim may be denied.
Similarly, certain conditions or circumstances, such as mental health conditions or pre-existing conditions, may not be covered. Also, a claim can be denied if it's not reported within 30 days of the incident.
As for car accidents, the general rule is that if the accident occurs while the employee is performing a work-related task, it may be covered by workers' compensation. Work-related tasks can include:
- Making deliveries.
- Driving to a client meeting.
- Traveling between work locations.
- Transporting another employee.
- Driving for a living (like being an Uber or Lyft driver).
Workers' comp may also cover accidents that occur during work-related travel even if the employer pays for the travel time to or from home.
When it comes to defining what constitutes a work-related task, there is a broad range of activities that can qualify. It's not just limited to jobs where driving is the primary responsibility, such as truck drivers or delivery drivers. Here are some examples:
- Making Deliveries: Whether it's delivering a product to a customer or documents to another office, if an employee is involved in an accident during such a trip, it would likely be covered by workers' compensation. This would apply to a wide range of jobs, from courier services to pizza delivery.
- Driving to a Client Meeting: If you're required to visit clients or other businesses as part of your job, the travel time is usually considered work-related. Therefore, if an accident occurs en route to or from the meeting, it may qualify for workers' compensation benefits.
- Traveling Between Work Locations: For employees who work at multiple locations for the same employer, travel between these sites is typically considered part of the job. For example, a nurse who works at multiple medical facilities for the same health system would likely be covered for an accident that occurs while traveling between facilities.
- Transporting Another Employee: If an employee is given the responsibility to transport another employee—for instance, to a training event or a business meeting—and an accident occurs during this trip, the injury might be covered by workers' compensation.
- Driving for a Living: For people whose job is primarily driving, like taxi drivers, rideshare drivers (Uber or Lyft), or bus drivers, any accident that occurs while they are on duty would likely be covered by workers' compensation.
- Employer-Paid Travel Time: In some cases, even the travel time to and from work may be considered work-related if the employer pays for this travel time. This could apply to employees who are required to travel long distances for their work or whose travel is a substantial part of their work day.
Just because an accident occurs while an employee is driving doesn't automatically mean it will be covered by workers' compensation. The key question is whether driving was a necessary part of the employee's work duties or was beneficial to the employer in some way. Consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to understand the specifics of your situation.
Exceptions to the Rules
There are, however, exceptions to these rules. For instance, under the "going and coming rule," employees typically won't receive workers' comp benefits for accidents that occur while they're commuting to and from work.
Here are some examples and scenarios where exceptions to the "going and coming rule" might apply:
- Employer-provided Transportation: If an employer provides transportation for its employees or compensates the employees for their travel time to and from work, injuries sustained during the commute may be covered. For example, if a company provides a shuttle bus for employees and an employee gets injured while riding the bus, that injury may be covered by workers' compensation.
- Running Errands for the Employer: If an employee is injured while performing an errand for their employer, that injury may be covered. For instance, if an employee is asked to pick up lunch for a meeting or drop off a package at the post office on their way home, and they get into a car accident during this task, the injury might be covered.
- Traveling Between Worksites: Employees who must travel between different worksites as part of their job may be covered for injuries that occur during that travel. For example, a maintenance worker who travels between different properties owned by the same employer could be covered if they get into an accident while traveling between sites.
- Special Missions or Assignments: If an employee is on a special mission or assignment for work, injuries sustained during travel for that assignment might be covered. For example, if an employee is sent to a conference or to meet a client in another city, a car accident that occurs during this trip could potentially be covered.
- Accidents on Employer's Premises: Injuries sustained in car accidents on the employer's premises (like a parking lot or garage) can often be covered. For example, if an employee slips and falls in an icy company parking lot, that injury may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
It's always a good idea to consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney if you've been injured and believe one of these exceptions might apply.
Workers' Compensation is a No-Fault System Importantly, workers' compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that even if the employee caused the accident, they might still be eligible for benefits, provided that the accident occurred during a work-related event.
Workers' compensation is referred to as a no-fault system because, unlike in personal injury law, where the injured party usually needs to prove that someone else was at fault for their injury, workers' compensation benefits do not depend on proving fault. This means that an employee can be eligible for workers' compensation benefits even if they were responsible for the accident that led to their injury.
The primary purpose of this system is to protect workers and ensure they receive necessary medical care and compensation for lost wages due to work-related injuries or illnesses, regardless of who was at fault. The idea is to make the process of obtaining benefits simpler and faster for injured workers, who might otherwise need to resort to lengthy and costly litigation to recover their losses.
While the no-fault nature of workers' compensation can be beneficial for injured workers, it also comes with certain trade-offs. For instance, workers' compensation benefits are typically limited to medical expenses, a portion of lost wages, and disability benefits. They do not cover pain and suffering, which can sometimes be a significant part of damages awarded in personal injury lawsuits.
However, there are exceptions to the no-fault rule in workers' compensation. For instance, benefits might be denied if the injury was self-inflicted, occurred while the worker was committing a serious crime, or if the worker was violating company policy at the time of the accident.
In the context of a car accident, this means that even if an employee was at fault—for example, they were speeding or didn't obey traffic signals—they could still be eligible for workers' compensation benefits if the accident occurred during a work-related task.
Contact Arshakyan Law Firm Today For a Free Case Consultation
Navigating the world of workers' compensation laws can be challenging, particularly when you're also dealing with the physical and emotional toll of a work-related injury. Remember that you have rights, and you don't have to face these challenges alone.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident while performing work-related tasks and believe you're entitled to workers' compensation, the experienced attorneys at Arshakyan Law Firm are here to help you. We understand the intricacies of California workers' compensation law, and we're committed to advocating for your rights and helping you secure the benefits you deserve.
Whether you need assistance with filing a claim, dealing with a denial, or understanding whether your situation qualifies for an exception, Arshakyan Law Firm can provide the guidance and quality representation you need. Remember, you should not have to bear the financial burden of a work-related injury on your own.
Reach out to Arshakyan Law Firm today for a FREE consultation at (818) 650-9985. Let us carry the legal burden so that you can focus on your recovery. Don't wait; contact us now and take the first step toward securing your rightful workers' compensation benefits.