Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Off-the-Clock Injuries?
March 28, 2022
When an employee is injured on the job, Workers’ Compensation benefits cover the costs associated with the injury, including medical bills, lost wages, and disability benefits if the injury prevents the employee from being able to return to work for an extended period of time or permanently. If the injury is fatal, Workers’ Compensation provides death benefits to the surviving family members. However, if you suffer an injury when you are on your lunch break, commuting to or from your job, or otherwise off the clock, the situation is more complicated when it comes to collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits. While there may be circumstances where an injury will not be covered by Workers’ Compensation, if you were injured in an accident arising out of and in the course of employment, you may be eligible for benefits.
Last month, the Supreme Court of New Jersey awarded Workers’ Compensation benefits to an employee after she was injured in a parking lot that was owned and operated by her employer. She was originally awarded benefits by the Division of Workers’ Compensation. However, the Appellate Division overturned the decision, arguing that her injuries did not arise “out of and in the course of” her employment. They based this decision on the argument that the township exercised no control over her use of the parking lot. The Supreme Court found that the employee’s injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment because her employer owned and operated the property where she was injured. As a result, despite the fact that the employee had clocked out for the day, her injuries were covered by Workers’ Compensation.
Workers’ Compensation will cover all expenses associated with your workplace injury, even if the injury was your fault. For example, if you broke your arm after slipping and falling on a wet, slippery floor that was just cleaned, you will be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. In addition, if you suffered a severe injury after failing to ensure that a machine’s safety guard was in place, your injuries will be covered. However, there are a number of scenarios where a work-related injury may or may not be covered. The following describes a number of possible injury scenarios and whether or not they are covered by Workers’ Compensation:
Injured at Work During a Break
Workplace injuries can happen when you least expect it, including when you are taking a break for lunch. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, you may or may not be covered by Workers’ Compensation. For example, if you were injured at the company’s on-site cafeteria, your injuries will likely be covered by Workers’ Compensation because it is generally considered a benefit to the company when employees remain on company property when taking meal or rest breaks. However, if you leave the company property for a lunch break and you are injured while off-site, it is unlikely that your injuries will be covered by Workers’ Compensation.
An exception to this rule would be if were running an errand that furthered your employer’s interests. For example, if your employer asked you to pick up lunches for a meeting and you were injured while running this errand, Workers’ Compensation will likely cover the costs associated with the injury.
Injured at Work After Clocking Out
In most cases, if your injury occurred on company property, including parking lots or sidewalks, your injury will be covered by Workers’ Compensation, even if you were not officially on the clock when the injury occurred. However, once you have clocked out and you are no longer on the company’s premises, any injuries that you sustain will not be covered.
Injuries that occur offsite will only be covered if you were performing duties that benefited your employer in some way. The following are examples of scenarios that would be considered to be within the course of employment when the injury occurred:
- Working from home or participating in a work-related phone call in the car.
- Attending a professional education or job-related training seminar.
- Traveling between two work sites.
- You were off duty during a business trip.
When Is an Injury Not Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
- Commute to and from work: According to the “coming and going rule,” your commute to and from your place of employment is not considered within the scope of your employment, so any injuries that occur during this time will not be covered by Workers’ Compensation. There are exceptions to the rule. For example, if you are a salesperson and you are injured in a car accident on your way to a sales call, your injuries will likely be covered.
- Recreational activities: Oftentimes, employees have the opportunity to participate in holiday parties, softball games, and other recreational activities or social events that are encouraged by employers but are not official work-related events. If participation in the event is completely voluntary, injuries are not typically covered. An exception would be if attendance at the event was mandatory or the event occurred on company premises. You not never assume that an injury is not covered just because it happened after hours at a social event.
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol: If it is discovered that you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you suffered a workplace injury, Workers’ Compensation will probably deny your claim for benefits.
- Workplace fights or altercations: Generally, injuries related to fights, horseplay, practical jokes, or physical altercations are not covered by Workers’ Compensation because they fall outside the scope of employment.
What Are Examples of Off-the-Clock Injuries?
As you can see, there is a lot of gray area when it comes to off-the-clock injuries and when they are covered by Workers’ Compensation. A skilled lawyer can explain the coverage that you are entitled to and ensure that you have access to those benefits. The following examples will give you an idea of the type of off-the-clock injuries that can occur and under what circumstances they are covered by Workers’ Compensation:
- A grocery store employee was seriously injured after being hit by a car while they were walking to their vehicle that was parked in the store’s parking lot. All of the store’s employees are required to park at the rear of the lot so that shoppers can park closer to the store. The employee clocked out and was walking to their vehicle when they were hit by a car as the driver was backing out of the parking spot. Even though the employee was officially off the clock, he was covered by Workers’ Compensation because the parking lot is under the company’s control and they had to walk through the parking lot to get to their car.
- A paralegal was taking a lunch break. On their way back to the office, the employer asked them to pick up some documents at the courthouse. They stopped at the courthouse at 12:45 p.m., and as they were walking down the steps of the courthouse, they fell and broke their arm. The injury was considered within the scope of their employment since they were picking up documents for their employer.
- As a salesperson for a national corporation, part of a salesperson’s job is to meet with clients over dinner. After dinner with the client, the employee was sideswiped by another motorist while they were driving back to the hotel. They suffered serious injuries, including a serious laceration on their head and internal bleeding. Their injuries were covered by Workers’ Compensation because the accident occurred while they were performing duties that directly benefited their employer.
These are just a few examples of off-the-clock injuries that are likely to be covered by Workers’ Compensation. If your claim for benefits is denied, an experienced lawyer will assist you with obtaining the benefits you deserve.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Help Injured Workers With Their Claims
If you have been injured at work but you were not officially on the clock when the accident occurred, you are urged to contact one of our Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation lawyers at DiTomaso Law. We have a proven track record of reaching successful claims outcomes for employees who were injured while on the job. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 856-414-0010 or contact us online. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.
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