What Happens If You Are Injured While Traveling For Work?

Posted on: 14 April 2015

Whether you've been involved in a car accident, fallen victim to a natural disaster, or suffered food poisoning from a not-quite-done plate of shellfish, being injured or made ill while on work-related travel can put a major crimp in your plans -- as well as your ability to adequately perform your job duties. If you've been injured while traveling for work, what are your legal options? Should you file a workers compensation claim, or are you considered to be off company time? Read on to learn more about how workers compensation laws intersect with work travel.

Do workers compensation laws cover work-related travel?

This is one of the most hotly-contested areas of workers compensation law -- whether an employee is eligible for workers comp benefits if he or she is injured while on work-related travel. Although workers comp laws (and policies) vary by state, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind when it comes to work-related travel.

In general, if you're injured while traveling to and from your normal place of business (an office, retail store, or other location), this injury will not be covered by workers comp, even if you were traveling to work at your employer's specific instruction. One exception to this policy is if you are injured during your daily commute while driving an employer-owned vehicle. In this situation, your employer is deemed to be exercising control over your commute (by requiring or allowing you to drive your employer's vehicle) and can therefore be held financially responsible for resulting injuries.

If you're injured while traveling to a non-fixed work site (like a special meeting or interview), the cost of these injuries may be covered by your employer's policy. In addition, if you've suffered an injury while running an errand at your employer's request (even on non-work time), this injury might be covered as well.

In evaluating a workers comp claim, attorneys and judges generally look at the extent to which the employer has controlled your actions directly preceding the injury. The greater the degree of control, the more likely your injuries are to fall beneath the workers comp umbrella.

What steps should you take after a travel injury occurs?

Your first step after returning should be to coordinate with your employer's human resources or finance department to ensure that a workers comp claim is filed. You'll later want to be able to document that you notified these parties as quickly as possible so that you won't be subject to expired reporting deadlines or other procedural issues.

For example, if you were involved in an auto accident, your auto insurance may be poised to cover any resulting medical bills -- however, if this falls under your employer's workers compensation policy, your employer should cover these costs instead. Although your auto insurer will usually be able to recover these costs from your employer's workers comp insurer (a process termed subrogation), it is easier and quicker to have your employer in the loop during all stages of the claim.

You should also ensure that you receive any follow-up treatment recommended by your physician. In some cases, a failure to seek recommended treatment can harm your ability to claim workers compensation funding -- the insurer may argue that you exacerbated your own injuries (and increased costs) by delaying seeking medical care.

Finally, you should consult with an attorney experienced in handling workers compensation claims, such as Schiller, Kessler & Gomez, PLC. Even if your claim is relatively straightforward, you may need an expert eye (or ear) to ensure that your rights are being protected during this process. An attorney can also help you value your claim, ensuring that you don't settle for less than you are owed.