Am I Covered by Workers' Comp When I'm Driving to and From Work?
Sometimes in life, you don’t know whether you’re coming or going. When it comes to driving to and from your place of work, you may have wondered at some point if your driving time constitutes “work time” under the rules of the Workers’ Compensation system.
If you are an employee and are injured while commuting to work, generally speaking, no, you are not covered—unless an exception applies. (We will cover exceptions in next week’s blog post or call us at HMMM if you have questions that we can answer now.) Under Ohio Workers’ Compensation law, you would be barred from filing a claim based on what is called the “coming-and-going” rule.
The “coming-and-going” rule is a tool used to determine whether an injury suffered by an employee in a traffic accident occurred “in the course of” and “arises out of” the employment relationship so as to constitute a compensable injury. As a general rule, an employee who has a fixed place of employment (called a “fixed-situs”) and is injured while traveling to or from that place of employment, is not entitled to participate in the Workers’ Compensation Fund. In other words, there is no connection between their injury and the job they were hired to perform.
Let’s take the case of three guys who work as drilling riggers. They were hired to work on a specific rig, and the location of that rig was about two hours (90 miles) from home. The employer gave each of them a “per diem” for expenses in addition to their wages, but they were not paid for their travel time and did not perform any job duties until they arrived at the site.
One day, after a 16-hour shift, the guys were all injured in a car accident while driving home from the drilling site. The accident occurred about 90 minutes after they left work. The employer argued that the claim should be denied and that these injuries were not compensable because they did not arise out of their employment. The workers were not doing anything related to their jobs at the time of their accident. The injured workers agreed that they were “fixed-situs” employees, given that they were working at a specific place.
After reviewing the facts, the Court of Appeals agreed with the employer and concluded that the injured workers’ job did not begin until arriving at the drilling site and, therefore, they were not entitled to workers’ comp.
The son of a Youngstown steelworker who worked himself in steel mills as a young man, Joseph A. Moro is acutely aware of the challenges that working people face and the dire impacts that injuries and impairments can have on them and their families. After he earned his undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University and his law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Joseph has largely dedicated his practice to handling workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. He is a fluent Spanish speaker who is certified as a Workers’ Compensation Specialist by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) as well as a certified Veterans Affairs Representative. He currently serves as the OAJ Regional Representative for Youngstown-Warren and on the OSBA Workers’ Compensation Specialty Board.