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Does workers' comp cover accidents on my commute?

Rhode Island employees benefit in many ways from the workers' compensation insurance their employers carry. This insurance provides coverage for the medical expenses, lost wages and certain other costs associated with an injury or illness suffered because of workplace duties.

In addition to injuries you may suffer on the job from falls, machinery or struck-by accidents, workers' comp may cover you if your work environment results in illness or other conditions, such as carpal tunnel, asthma or hearing loss. However, what happens if you are injured in an accident while driving to work?

Exceptions to the rule

If you suffer injuries in a traffic accident while you are driving to work in the morning or home from work at the end of your shift, you may feel you deserve coverage from workers' compensation. After all, you would probably not have been in that place at that time if you had not been on your way to or from work. Unfortunately, the "going and coming" rule excludes injuries from accidents during your commute. However, here are some circumstances when your travels may qualify for workers' comp coverage:

  • Driving between work sites during your shift is not going and coming, so you may receive workers' compensation if you suffer injuries in an accident.
  • If you drive a company car, especially one that bears a company logo, your injuries may be compensable.
  • You may not have a fixed work site, such as if you drive a bus or a taxi, so an accident while you are behind the wheel may qualify for workers' compensation.
  • When your boss sends you out of the building to pick up lunch for the office, deliver documents across town or even run a personal errand, workers' compensation will likely cover you if you suffer injuries in an accident while you are on this special mission.

If you are on a business trip, the law considers you to be on the job for the entirety of your trip even if your meetings or conferences last only a few hours a day. Therefore, if you have an accident while driving, you may qualify for workers' compensation even if the accident occurs outside your normal working hours.

Proving the exceptions

As injured employees challenge workers' compensation restrictions, more exceptions become part of the law. You may think your accident is outside the scope of workers' compensation, but it may help to allow a skilled and experienced attorney to review the details before giving up on your claim for benefits that you may rightly deserve.

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