Worker compensation claims differ from state to state, but one factor that remains consistent throughout the country is the injury must be work-related. This factor means the injury you sustain, must be tied to the work you perform for your employer in order to file a workers compensation claim and receive benefits from this program.
If you are injured while at your workplace, the injury would then be work-related, although there are some exceptions to this rule. One exception is if you are traveling in a vehicle for work-related reasons, even though you are not at the workplace, you may also be covered under workers compensation. There are several examples of when benefits would cover on-the-job vehicle accidents.
On-the-Job Vehicle Accidents
If you are in a vehicle for work-related reasons and traveling when you sustain injuries from an accident, you can file a workers compensation claim. Even though you are not at the workplace, you are still performing work-related activities for your employer and would be covered. These are some examples of when this would qualify as work-related ‘on-the-job’ vehicle accident injury:
Your employer has asked you to run an errand
You are responsible for making deliveries as part of your job description, or even if you have been asked by your employer to deliver items occasionally
You have been asked to transport another employee to another location
Part of your job description or your entire job description is driving
Your job is a driving position, and you have no set workplace
Your employer pays you to drive to and from work
You could not claim workers compensation benefits if you were on your way to or from work. An exception would be if you were paid for your mileage to and from work and were involved in an accident during this travel. Another exception to this rule would be if you had been asked by your employer to stop and pick up supplies while on the way to work and an accident happened, you then may be eligible for benefits. There are also options if another driver was at fault for the accident which caused your injuries.
On-the-Job Vehicle Accident Versus a Personal Injury Claim
If injured in a vehicle accident where another driver was at fault, you may be eligible for a personal injury claim against that driver. This eligibility may mean, you can get compensation for your losses stemming from the accident including your medical expenses. Check with your attorney as you may have the right to file a personal injury claim.
Personal Injury Claim
To file a personal injury claim after an accident, you have several steps to follow. First, you need to take notes detailing what happened to cause the crash and collect any evidence available that will backup your notes. Document any injuries you sustained, and if medical attention was needed, you need to obtain copies of your doctor's statements.
Speak with your attorney regarding proving ‘fault’ for the accident and other documents you will need for a personal injury claim.
As a covered employee if you have suffered injuries from a vehicular accident, you will need to file a workers compensation claim. Follow the procedures according to the state law by having your employer file the initial paperwork with your state agency. If you are also claiming the accident as a personal injury claim, this claim must be filed in civil court.
The most significant difference between your workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim is how you will recover damages. Your workers’ compensation claim will pay for certain losses such as lost income and medical bills. This benefit program has specific maximums, and it will not pay you for pain and suffering. A personal injury claim can pay for this type of sufferings.
Another difference you will find between the two claims, workers comp, and personal injury, are proving ‘fault.’ For you to file a personal injury claim, you will have to prove fault. You will have to prove the other driver was the reason the accident occurred, or that they were negligent in actions that resulted in the accident. Workers compensation claims do not involve any form of ‘fault.’ A workers compensation claim can be filed even if you were the one at fault, as long as you were not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and you were driving for ‘work-related’ reasons.
Timing is another significant difference between the two forms of claims. If you are injured on the job, you must notify your employer immediately or within a specified number of days after the injury happened under the worker compensation rules. The notification time frame for workers compensation claims is typically set at 30, 60, or 90 days after an accident. As long as you’ve notified your employer about the incident, you have one to three years to file the claim.
There is a statute of limitation for a personal injury claim which is different from state to state but is never less than one year from the date the accident happened and can be two to three years. The last difference involves the vehicle as you cannot receive compensation through workers compensation for damages to the car you were driving. A personal injury claim can claim and seek compensation for damages done to the vehicle as a result of the accident.
Can You File Both Workers Comp and Personal Injury?
It is a complex system that allows the interaction between workers compensation claims and a personal injury claim. Having legal representation from the Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm will help you through the problematic paperwork and help to ensure you receive the compensation benefits that are your right. If you accept workers’ compensation benefits, you still have the right to seek compensation for damages through a personal injury claim if the other driver can be proven to be at fault for the accident.
There may be difficulty in claiming those benefits though as the workers’ compensation insurance provider or your employer might place a ‘lien’ against your benefits received from a third party. How this might impact you is if your workers’ compensation program paid you $5,000 in benefits, and you later settle on the personal injury claim for $10,000 against the negligent driver, your employer may place a lien on the $5,000 of your settlement. Work with the Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm to ensure you receive your full compensation.
Employer Liability for Vehicle Accidents
The California Court of Appeals set guidelines to determine whether an employee is performing business errands when a vehicle accident happens. The doctrine respondeat superior imposes liability on employers for the actions of their employees while they are performing work-related duties.
California Respondeat Superior Law
Under this law, an employer is held vicariously liable for their employee's negligence and applies when an employee is acting within their normal scope of employment. The employer is also responsible for the employee's wrongful actions if someone is injured.
The law was put into place to prevent recurrence of wrongful conduct and to provide greater assurance of compensation for victims. The law also ensures that victims losses are covered by those who benefit from the job the driver was performing, acknowledges and compensates the injury.
This law also defines what is the ‘ordinary scope of employment’ as when an employee is performing their everyday actions which are typical of or related to what would be expected in their employers business.
Employers are held liable for workers involved in an accident if they are performing work-related duties at the time of the accident under the respondeat superior law, but the coming and going rule imposes limitations on workers compensation benefits. The coming and going rule means you cannot collect worker comp benefits if you are injured while commuting to or from work.
If you are injured while performing duties assigned to you by your employer at the workplace
You are injured while completing an assignment or task given to you by your employer whether or not you are at the workplace
Your employer does not have to be proven negligent to be responsible for benefits, and you as the employee do not necessarily become disqualified from collecting benefits for being negligent
Many employees have argued that since they were on their way to or from their work duties, it should be considered work-related as it is an essential component of their job. This rationale might be valid; however, the legislation does not recognize this as falling under worker comp benefits, and this transportation falls under the ‘coming and going rule’ limits.
Under the workers’ compensation program, and according to the ‘going and coming’ rule, injuries sustained while driving from or to work will not be covered unless:
Driving your own personal vehicle is exempted by the going and coming rule. If you are commuting is a company-owned vehicle, you are covered. A company car has to be used to drive to and from a fixed location in most states. Some states also include vehicles with a company logo fixed to it as it might be argued that the vehicle is being used as advertising for the business.
If part of your job duties includes traveling, this transportation is well beyond simply commuting to a workplace. This form of transportation would include bus drivers, state troopers, pilots, and other professions that are comprised of traveling. If your injury was sustained while you were on the job, and not going to or from the workplace, your injuries would fall under workers comp benefits.
If you have to use your personal vehicle to travel between one work site and another within your assigned work hours, it would be considered job-related. An example would be a computer technician who is required to drive from one office to another or a landscape company who sends their gardeners from location to another.
If you travel out of town for a work-related conference or meeting of any type, the complete time you are away is considered work-related. If while out of town you only attend the meetings for eight hours a day, the entire time you are gone is considered as work-time under worker comp definitions.
If while you are working, and your employer decides they want you to run an errand, you are still covered by workers comp for an injury that would occur while on this errand. The errand doesn’t have to be work-related, such as picking up their mail, or children from school, any request made by your employer during your scheduled work time would cover you under workers comp should you suffer an injury while performing the errand.
It is not always easy to understand whether an injury is covered under workers comp benefits when you are involved in an on-the-job vehicle accident. If you feel your accident is not being handled fairly, contact the Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm.
Steps to Follow When Involved in On-the-Job Accident
If involved in a vehicular accident while you were working, and sustained injuries; there are steps you need to follow to ensure your workers’ comp claim can be properly filed. These steps are similar to what any vehicular accident would need whether on the job or not.
You have to stop and remain at the scene to wait for authorities to arrive. If possible and if there are others involved, you can try to assist in any way you are capable of helping. If you are injured; however, do try to move, you should remain where you are until emergency personnel can treat you.
If possible, and if you can, gather as much evidence as possible from the scene. Photos are a great way to show proof, and if you have a phone with a camera or a portable camera with you, take pictures from multiple angles. You want to capture the position of the vehicles, how the road looks or its condition, the damage done to your car and any other pictures you feel will help your case.
Do not talk to the other parties about the accident and do not accept blame. File a police report and ask for a copy. You will also want to obtain contact information from the others involved, drivers license, license plates, vehicle registration, insurance, and other information.
Report this accident and any injuries you suffered to your supervisor or employer as soon as you are able. Since the crash had happened when you were on the job, you are entitled to workers compensation benefits, and it does not matter who was at fault of the accident.
The benefits under workers comp will provide you medical care and a portion of your lost wages as long as you cannot perform your job duties as a result of your injuries. There is a possibility you can file a personal injury claim along with workers comp to recover maximum compensation for your losses depending on the circumstances related to how the accident happened.
You do not have to choose between the workers’ comp claim and the personal injury claim. Speak with Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm on how to file both claims. The workers’ comp claim will have to be filed within 30 days of the accident.
Questions for On-the-Job Vehicle Accidents
The workers’ comp program is a complicated system with a lot of rules and regulations. When you question, the on-the-job vehicle accident claims it adds a whole set of new questions. These are some of the typical questions related to worker comp benefits when involved in an on-the-job vehicle accident:
If it was my fault can I still file a workers comp claim?
Yes. Workers Compensation is a ‘no-fault’ system. Should the accident be deemed your fault, you are still entitled to benefits for your injuries. The benefits you are entitled to include temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, death benefits, medical treatments, and job displacement benefits.
If I am injured while in the parking lot of my workplace, can I file worker comp claim?
Maybe. There are many ‘gray’ areas when it comes to determining workers comp claims. Since most employers provide a parking area for their employees, and some even insist employees use these parking areas, it depends on the circumstances whether or not your injury will be covered. If you are expected to park in a specific area and are hurt while in this area, then you may expect benefits. To be sure you are properly protected, contact Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm to discuss your options.
Am I considered ‘on-the-job’ while attending treatment sessions for worker comp injuries?
Yes. If you are in a vehicular accident while driving to or from your medical treatments for a workers comp injury, you are considered ‘on the job’.
Are there other claims I can file besides Workers Comp due to a vehicular accident?
Yes. The facts of your accident will determine if you might have other legal avenues to pursue to seek benefits. You may have a personal injury claim against a negligent driver who caused the accident, or you may be able to file a request for an Uninsured Motorist or Underinsured Motorist claim. There may even be the Victim Compensation Board from the State of California if there was any criminal act involved with your accident.
What do I do if I’m not sure whether or not the accident is considered ‘on-the-job’?
Consult with Workers Compensation Attorney Law Firm as soon as possible. Every accident has its separate facts, and they should all be analyzed to see if you are eligible for benefits. A workers’ compensation attorney will provide the best advice on these situations as they can identify a nuanced Workers Compensation claim.
Denial of On-the-Job Vehicle Accident Injuries
Employers and their insurance company look for any possible reason to deny a workers’ compensation claim. Several common reasons for denial are missed deadlines for filing the claim; disputes injury is work-related, the condition doesn’t’ meet guidelines; you were not on the job when the injury occurred.
Missed deadline- When you file for workers compensation benefits, you must report your accident and injuries right away, or as soon as physically able.
Dispute of injury- Your employer or the insurance company may require you to prove the injury happened while you were performing work-related duties. In the case of a vehicular accident, you may have to show your driving time was eligible for on-the-job.
The injury doesn’t meet guidelines- The injuries have to meet a level of severity to be considered for worker compensation benefits.
You were not working at the time of injury- If you have left your job during the filing process, the insurance company may deny the claim because you do not work for the employer any longer.
Don’t give up if you’ve been denied a benefit. Look closely at the letter stating why claim will not be granted as it might be a simple paperwork mistake. If the issue is more involved then paperwork error, then you should seek legal representation. A workers’ compensation attorney can review your case and determine if an appeal should be filed.
If an appeal is needed to get the benefits you deserve, you will appear in front of an administrative law judge as the first level in the appeal process. They will review your medical records and other documents from the authorities who responded to your vehicular accident to verify injuries sustained qualify for worker comp benefits.
You will want legal counsel through this process as workers’ comp appeals are strict and short and you don’t want to miss the chance of receiving the benefits you are entitled. If the first level appeal is denied, there are further legal steps to take.
How to Find a Workers Compensation Attorney Near Me?
If you have been involved in an on-the-job vehicular accident and sustained injuries, contact our workers compensation lawyer at 310-956-4277 to ensure you receive benefits you are entitled to. Workers’ Compensation is a complex system, and you need an attorney working with you who understands these laws and will stand beside you to ensure you are compensated.