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Special Exceptions for Traveling Employees under the Workers’ Compensation Act

Woodruff Johnson & Evans Law Offices

Some jobs require employees to travel away from their employer’s premises in order to perform their jobs. Such employees are known as “traveling employees”. Some examples of traveling employees are delivery drivers and people who travel for sales. The Workers’ Compensation Act recognizes that these employees are exposed to additional risks by virtue of their travel, so injuries to traveling employees are not governed by the same rules applicable to other employees. Essentially any injury sustained by a traveling employee is compensable, as long as the conduct giving rise to the injury is reasonable and foreseeable. Traveling employees still need to show that their injuries arose out of and in the course of their employment, as any other employee would. But unlike any other employee, traveling employees may be compensated for injuries sustained outside the course of a normal business day and while they were not performing duties for their employers, including recreational activities.

Generally, an accident that occurs while an employee is commuting to or from work is not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. For example, if an employee is rear-ended while driving to the office, his injuries will not be compensable under the Act. (Said employee could pursue a potential injury case against the driver.) However, if a traveling employee is rear-ended while driving on a business trip, even if he is not driving for work-related purposes, his injuries are compensable. In a recent case, an employee who was required to travel for work on an almost daily basis fell in her employer’s parking lot while warming up her car before leaving for a work assignment. Her employer argued that she was not “in the act of travel” at the time of her injury, so the traveling employee doctrine should not apply. The court found she was a traveling employee, that the act of warming up her car was part of her trip, and her injuries were compensable.

The determination of whether an employee qualifies as a traveling employee is fairly straightforward. The more challenging question is whether the activities in which the employee was engaged when he was injured were reasonable and foreseeable. The answer to this question hinges on the specific facts of each case. In one case, an employee was in Hawaii on business to install an industrial freezer. He was traversing lava rocks while on a sightseeing excursion when he fell and broke his leg. The court found his injuries were compensable because such recreational activities were reasonable and foreseeable.

If you are a traveling employee, or think you might qualify as a traveling employee, and have been injured while away from home for work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and not even know it. The insurance company might even tell you that you are not entitled to benefits. To protect your rights, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

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