New Jersey State Law provides that workers’ compensation benefits are available to employees who sustain personal injuries as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment.1 The “course of employment” requirement tests work-connection as to time, place and activity. It demands that the injury be shown to have arisen within the time and space boundaries of the employment, and in the course of an activity whose purpose is related to the employment.2
Over time, the Courts advanced the “going and coming rule,” sometimes referred to as the “premises rule.” What the going and coming rule did was to exclude an award of compensation for injuries sustained during routine travel to and from an employee’s regular place of work. This rule rests on the assumption that an employee’s ordinary, day-to-day journey to and from work neither yields a special benefit to the employer nor exposes the employee to any risks that are peculiar to the employment.
The analysis for all going and coming rule issues is highly fact-specific, giving rise to a few exceptions:
The “special mission” exception allows compensation for employees required to be away from the conventional place of employment, and actually engaged in the direct performance of employment related duties. For example, an employee injured on an off-site errand that was directed by her employer will likely be deemed to be in the course of her employment, even though she was away from her usual place of employment. Special missions could include anything from a business trip to picking up lunch for a boss, so long as the activity was directed by the employer and the injury occurred during the performance of that activity.
The legislature has also given credence to the “travel time” exception. This exception allows portal-to-portal coverage for employees who are paid for travel time to and from a distant job site, or are using an employer authorized vehicle for travel to and from a distant jobsite and on business authorized by the employer.
Finally, in determining whether an accident gives rise to workers’ compensation benefits, the Courts have strongly considered the employer’s ability to “control” the location where an accident occurred. The employer does not have to actually exercise control, it suffices that an employer retains the right to control the specific area where an accident occurred.
It is important to understand that many workers’ compensation insurance carriers will deny liability without further investigation if an employee’s accident gives rise to any of the above considerations. It is vital to seek counsel with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can apply the facts of your situation to applicable case law in order to obtain the best possible outcome. Call the workers’ compensation attorneys Hyberg, White and Mann today at 609-407-1000 for a free consultation.
1. N.J.S.A. 34:15-7
2. Lex K. Larson & Arthur Larson, Workers’ Compensation Law: Cases, Materials, and Texts 93 (4th ed., LexisNexis 2008).
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