For some New Jersey employees, the last few steps before reaching the employer’s actual premises can be quite dangerous. With cracked or irregular pavement, as well as ice and snow, parking lots and sidewalks near the office, retail establishment, or factory may resemble obstacle courses.
If a New Jersey employee sustains an injury by slipping on an icy sidewalk or tripping over uneven pavement in a nearby parking lot as he or she makes the way toward the employment space, is the accident covered by workers’ compensation? Like so many legal issues, the answer comes in two familiar words: “It depends.”
“Going and Coming Rule:” Hazards of the Daily Commute
Generally speaking, for employees having relatively specific hours, the journey to work and the journey home again each day is not considered to be part of the employee’s actual duties. Accordingly, under such circumstances, if an employee is injured in an automobile accident during the commute, the employer is not responsible for workers’ compensation benefits related to the injury.
Injuries on the Employer’s Premises
Once the employee reaches the employer’s premises, even if the employee has not yet clocked in, injuries sustained are usually considered compensable. The justification is that the employer has the right and duty to maintain a safe work environment. To the extent that an employee slips on a wet floor inside the exterior door, New Jersey law (and the law of virtually all other states) requires the employer to be responsible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Injuries “Near” the Employer’s Premises
What about slips and falls just “outside” the front (or rear) door of the employer? New Jersey law says that the employer’s premises are “extended” to a reasonable area around the actual premises if the employer owns or maintains control over the area. Since these cases can be complicated, it is always best to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can work on your behalf to get the compensation you deserve.
In an interesting case a few years back, the New Jersey Appellate Court affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Trial Court’s decision finding a Harrah’s Atlantic City Resort and Casino’s employee and client of Petro Cohen law firm, driving out of her employer’s parking lot and struck by another vehicle on a public road, was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The Court reasoned that the employee was legally in the course of her employment, as she had not completely left the employer’s parking lot when the accident occurred.
The Hersh Case: How Much Control is Necessary?
In what is referred to as the 2014 Hersh decision, the Supreme Court of New Jersey effectively denied compensation to a county employee who was injured as she crossed a public street as she walked from a private garage, where she had employer-paid parking. Her employer leased 65 parking spaces at the privately-owned lot, told Ms. Hersh to park in any of the designated spaces, and gave her a scan card for access.
The Supreme Court found that since the County did not own and had no obligation to maintain the lot, it was not part of the County’s office premises. The Court agreed with Ms. Hersh that the “premises rule” is not limited to the four walls of the employer’s facility, but the Court said that because the area was not controlled by her employer, Hersh was still involved in her commute to work and could not recover compensation for the injuries.
Have You Sustained a Work-Related Injury?
While Ms. Hersh was unsuccessful in her own claim, the New Jersey Court set forth standards that might help you prevail, even if your injury occurred away from the employer’s premises. The issues are complex and you need skilled and experienced counsel to help you understand your rights.
The legal team at Petro Cohen, PC can help you review the important details of your injury and claim. We have the experience and know-how to give you an honest assessment as to the compensability of your injury. Our attorneys are skilled at effectively managing an employee’s claim and negotiating a favorable settlement. Claims regarding workplace injuries can be complicated, but Petro Cohen, P.C. has the experience to handle them. Call toll-free today at (888) 675-7607, or fill out our online contact form and we will be in-touch promptly.