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Commonwealth Court Determines Severely Injured Driver Should Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Many employees across Pennsylvania must travel as one of their duties of employment.  Often, this travel is driving in a company vehicle, and it is at the discretion of the employer.  If an auto accident occurs while driving for work, the injured employee may be able to recover under the Workers’ Compensation Act.  For any employee to receive compensation, he or she must first show that the injury occurred during the course and scope of employment.  The Workers’ Compensation Act states that the injury must be sustained while the employee is engaged in the furtherance of the employer’s business or affairs, or on the employer’s premises.  The latter requirement does not extend to employer vehicles, and anyone injured in a company vehicle must be performing work in the course of employment.  

The injured worker in Holler v. WCAB (Tri Wire Engineering Solutions Inc.) drove in a company vehicle for his work as a cable technician.  He was allowed to take the company vehicle home as a convenience, but he was not allowed to drive it anywhere else or drive with passengers in the car.  On one of the worker’s commutes to receive his assignments for the day, he had a single-vehicle wreck that caused injuries so severe he was unable to return to work.  The worker filed a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits and was denied by the employer on the basis that he was not working when the accident occurred.  The injured worker acknowledged during the earlier proceedings that there was no contract from transportation, so the Workers’ Compensation Judge found that the employee was not in the scope of employment and affirmed the denial of benefits.  

The appellate Commonwealth Court looked at the case law and the “going and coming rule,” which prohibits recovery for injuries sustained commuting to and from work.  The court looked to see whether any of the exceptions to this rule applied.  If the claimant had a contract that included transportation to and from work, had no fixed place of employment, was on a special mission for the employer, or under special circumstances where the business interests of the employer were furthered, he or she may be able to recover under the Act.  The injured person argued that as a cable technician, he had no fixed place of employment and thus was a “traveling employee” under an exception. 

The Court looked to a prior non-precedential case that considered a cable repairman to be a “traveling employee” and held that the employee in this case was a traveling employee under the exception.  If given the label of a “traveling employee,” the injured employee is under the presumption that any driving is within the scope of employment, and it is up to the employer to to show that the employee abandoned his or her post.  The Commonwealth Court continued and determined that the injured driver did not abandon his post when the wreck occurred, and he was furthering the interests of the employer.  The court reversed the finding of the WJC and ruled that the injured man qualified for compensation under the Act.

The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys at Needle Law Firm have the experience you need to successfully pursue your claim.  We know that employers’ insurance companies are not interested in providing you with the full amount of recovery you need, and we will aggressively litigate to maximize your benefits.  For a free, confidential consultation today, contact our office at 570-344-1266.

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