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Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Commuting Accidents?

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Commuting Accidents?

For many working people, the most dangerous part of their day is not the time they spend at work, but rather the time they spend commuting. Being injured in an accident while commuting raises questions about whether an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy will compensate the employee.

Ordinary commuting generally is not covered

Nevada workers’ compensation law provides that an employee can receive benefits for injuries arising in the course and scope of employment. Generally speaking, unless an employer’s policy provides otherwise, an employee’s time going to and from work is not within the scope of employment for workers’ compensation purposes. In a nutshell, normal commuting is an employee’s personal time, or as the Supreme Court has said, “employers are not liable for injuries sustained by employees due to the hazards of daily living.” Bob Allyn Masonry v. Murphy, 124 Nev. 279, 286 (2008).

Travel at the employer’s request is more likely to be covered

But there are exceptions. An employer can convert a commute into “work time” by compensating an employee for their travel time. If an employee is paid for time spent getting from a distant home to a work location, injuries from an accident that occurs along the way likely will be covered.

When an employee is injured while traveling at the employer’s request, such as to run an errand or to go from one work location to another, coverage is more likely to apply. For example, in Murphy a worker was injured in a car accident after making a special delivery for his employer on his day off. Id. at 281. The employer argued that the employee wasn’t paid for his travel time, and therefore his injuries did not arise out of his employment. But under the “special errand exception,” an employee is entitled to workers’ compensation coverage for injuries sustained in a journey that the employee would not otherwise have made but for the special task. Id. at 288. The rule is similar for special business trips, such as travel to visit a client or attend a meeting at a location other than the employee’s normal workplace.

Other exceptions follow a similar logic. Coverage extends to rides given to other employees for business purposes. It also applies to trips between one business location and another, such as between a supply yard and a work site. The issue is not whether the travel time is compensated, but rather if it is undertaken because of the employee’s obligations to the employer.

If in doubt, speak to a workers’ compensation attorney

Whether travel qualifies for workers’ compensation can sometimes require a careful examination of facts. Insurers can deny claims for a covered commute-related injury simply because the claim is not properly worded. Or a claim might omit important details that transform an ordinary commute into a covered, work-related errand.

At the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez, we specialize in helping our clients navigate the difficult world of workers’ compensation. With over 45 years of experience, our firm is committed to giving injured workers in Nevada the best opportunity to recover the benefits they deserve. To speak to an attorney call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to reach out to you through our contact page.