If you worry about being injured at work or developing a work-related illness, you might feel safer knowing that you’re covered under workers’ compensation insurance if something does happen while you’re at your job.
But what about when you’re injured doing something that’s related to your job outside of your workplace? If your health insurance company decides that your injury was a work-related injury, they may not cover it. Will workers’ compensation cover you? Take a look at what you need to know about work-related injuries that don’t happen in the workplace.
When You Work From Home
These days, self-employed workers and freelancers aren’t the only people who work from home. Plenty of companies allow their employees to telecommute and work from home some or all of the time. What happens if you trip and break a bone in your own home while you’re performing work-related duties?
You may be eligible for workers’ compensation even if your injury happens in your home, but it depends on the specifics of the case. In one example, an employee who tripped over her dog on the way to get work materials out of her garage was eventually approved for workers’ compensation benefits after an initial denial.
In that case, the employee won her claim because her employer required her to store work materials in her home, so they were responsible for the injuries she sustained in the process of retrieving those materials. If she had not been required to bring materials at home or if she’d been injured while doing something non-work-related during working hours, like getting a drink from the refrigerator, her claim might not have been approved.
If you’re wondering whether you might be eligible for a work injury sustained while working at home, consider how connected the injury is to your job. For example, if your job involves a lot of typing on the computer, and you develop carpal tunnel syndrome, you will probably be eligible for workers’ compensation.
On the other hand, if your job requires you to make phone calls and you voluntarily spend time typing notes about those phone calls for your own records when it’s not required, your carpal tunnel syndrome would probably not be covered by workers’ compensation.
When You’re on the Road
You may think of your commute as part of the workday. After all, the commute eats up a significant amount of your time and costs you money. You’re usually dressed for work and thinking about work when you’re on the way to or from work. However, in most cases, the trip to or from your job is usually not considered your employer’s responsibility. If you get into an accident on your way to work, workers’ compensation won’t cover you.
However, there are some exceptions. In certain professions, workers don’t necessarily have a fixed office. For example, if you’re a traveling salesperson, much of your job depends on traveling to and from the places where you’re making your sales pitches, not traveling to and from a central office. If you’re injured on your way to make a sale, you may be covered.
Traveling for business is often covered. For example, if your company sends you to a conference and you’re injured on the way there, you can make a workers’ compensation claim.
If you have a job that occasionally places you on-call, so you’re required to come in only if you’re called in, you may be covered from the time that you receive the call. In that case, a commute-related injury would be covered.
You may also be covered by workers’ compensation if your only route to work takes you through a dangerous area, like a blasting zone. Finally, if you’re asked to run a work-related errand during your commute or on your personal time, like your lunch break, you might qualify for workers’ compensation.
When You’re at a Work Function
Often, employees find themselves in the position of attending work-related functions that don’t involve doing actual work. Employee retreats, company picnics, and office holiday parties are all examples of these types of functions.
Whether or not you’re covered by workers’ compensation during these types of functions depends largely on the situation. You’re more likely to be covered if the function is mandatory. If the event is voluntary, your employer can argue that you didn’t have to be there and that you were on your own time.
However, sometimes a voluntary event can be covered by workers’ compensation. One exception may be if the event is arranged and paid for by the employer and benefits the employer. For example, a team-building event meant to improve employees’ ability to work productively together or a party where employees are expected to network with clients.
In these cases, a court may decide that the event is connected closely enough to work to be covered by workers’ compensation, even if it’s a voluntary function.
Work-related injuries that occur away from the workplace can be complicated, and even a claim that should be approved may be initially denied. Determine whether your situation is covered by workers’ compensation by consulting an attorney who understands the workers’ compensation laws in your area.