While the price of gasoline has fallen from previous, historically high levels, many of us are still mindful to save where we can. We watch how we drive. We combine errands and shopping trips. Some of us participate in a carpool when it comes to going to work. Indeed, many employers now sponsor ride-share programs. If you are involved in an accident while riding in one of the carpools, do you have a claim for workers’ compensation benefits? The answer is the one given for many legal questions: “It depends.”
You Need an Exception to the Usual Rule
Generally speaking, for workers who have a fixed place of work, injuries sustained while commuting to work or back home are deemed to be outside the employment relationship and, therefore, such injuries are not compensable under New Jersey workers’ compensation law. This is often referred to as the “going and coming” rule. There are a number of important exceptions to the rule, however, including the following.
No fixed place of work: The “going and coming” rule applies only to those who have a specified job site. If, for example, your job requires you to travel to different spots in order to perform your work, the trip to those “spots” may be covered by the employment, and injuries sustained may be compensable.
Employer-provided vehicle: If the employer provides a vehicle for its convenience or business interests, then the travel to and from work may often be considered part of the job, and injuries sustained in an accident may be compensable.
Employer-paid travel expenses: If the employer reimburses you for travel expenses, that may also qualify as an exception to the “going and coming rule.”
Employer-provided incentives to carpool: In some instances, if the employer strongly encourages carpooling by allowing special incentives, travel may be included within the employment relationship; the “going and coming rule” may not apply.
You May Have Separate Claim Against Driver
If you are a passenger in a carpool vehicle that is involved in an accident, you may have a separate negligence claim against the driver of the vehicle (or the driver of the other vehicle in a multi-car accident), even if your workers’ compensation claim is denied because of the going and coming rule. In fact, in some instances, the damages that you may be entitled to recover may be greater for the negligence claim than for the workers’ compensation claim. Careful analysis by an experienced legal expert is required, however. There are, for example, special rules that may bar your negligence claim against a co-employee.
Experienced, Aggressive Legal Counsel is a Must
Whether you file a workers’ compensation claim or a negligence claim (or in some instances – both), you will need the help provided by a skilled, experienced, aggressive attorney who knows the system and how it works. At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, we have assisted many hard-working folks just like you and have been successful in handling thousands of workers’ compensation claims as well as automobile accident and personal injury cases.
Call or contact Petro Cohen for a free consultation. Talk with one of our hard-working New Jersey workers’ compensation or personal injury lawyers to find out how to recover money to pay for your medical treatment, physical therapy, and lost earnings. We can be reached by phone at 888-675-7607, or complete our online form. We look forward to discussing your situation with you.