A question that we often hear is whether workers’ compensation covers injuries sustained by individuals while driving to or from work. In the majority of these cases, our response is generally, “No.” An employer is typically not responsible for providing workers’ comp benefits to its employees accidentally injured during their travels to – or from – work.
New Jersey’s Going and Coming Rule
This is because New Jersey’s “going and coming” law deliberately prohibits the award of workers’ comp benefits in the vast majority of these instances. The rule is designed to protect employers from a potentially unlimited number of workers’ comp claims that could arise from their employees’ car accidents, public transportation accidents, pedestrian accidents, etc.
Do Not Lose Hope: There MAY Be Other Options for Recovery
While this may seem discouraging at first, the going and coming rule is actually a good thing for many people injured during their commutes. Specifically, if an employee suffers a “workers’ comp injury,” he or she is eligible for certain, defined benefits without the need to prove fault. In exchange for this “no fault” benefits system, injured employees are (almost) always prohibited from bringing a personal injury lawsuit against their employer.
This is very important because an injured plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit may recover a financial compensation award that is much greater than would be possible through the workers’ comp system. Therefore, since going and coming accidents fall outside the purview of the workers’ comp, the door is left open for an injured commuter to sue any number of other potential defendants. (Now, whether the injured person actually has grounds to bring a personal injury case is an entirely separate matter).
Exceptions to the Rule
In the 1990s, the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized two distinct exceptions to the going and coming rule:
- Special Mission Exception: This exception provides that an employee is eligible for workers’ comp benefits:
- IF the job requires that he or she must be somewhere other than the normal place of employment;
- AND he or she is truly and directly performing job duties.
- Travel Time Exception: This exception provides that an employee is eligible for workers’ comp benefits:
- IF he or she is paid for travel time to and from a job site that is not the normal place of employment;
- OR he or she uses an actual (and authorized) company-provided vehicle to travel back and forth.
Analyzing the Exceptions to the Going and Coming Rule
Here are a few things to consider when analyzing the situation.
- Was the employee injured in an accident that happened while he or she was traveling to or from work?
- If so, the injuries likely are not covered by workers’ comp. Even if an employer has multiple offices that the employee drives to somewhat regularly, the travel to or from any/all of the offices is not typically covered.
- Was the employee injured while driving to a job site located somewhere other than the employee’s normal place of employment?
- If this is the case, an employee may be eligible for workers’ comp benefits if he or she is paid for the travel time – OR he or she used a company vehicle.
- Was the employee injured while travelling to a location that is neither a job site nor the employer’s normal place of employment?
- In this case, we must determine if the employee’s job duties required him or her to take this “special mission,” AND whether his or her injuries were sustained while actually performing job-related duties (meaning that he or she was NOT running errands, sightseeing, etc.)
Contact Us Today
If you were injured while traveling for work, contact us today. At Petro Cohen, P.C., we have helped many employees who have been injured in this manner. Call or contact us for a free consultation. Talk to an experienced lawyer who can help you sort out your rights. We can be reached by phone at 888-675-7607, or you can complete our online form. We look forward to discussing your situation with you.