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Special missions trump the Going and Coming Rule

If you're injured in an accident during your commute to or from work, normally workers' compensation won't cover those injuries. Your daily commute isn't usually considered part of the job.

This exclusion is named the "Going and Coming Rule," but special circumstances and exceptions can extend an employer's liability for your safety all the way from your doorstep to the job site and back again.

A Pennsylvania court reaffirmed this when it refused to overturn a workers' comp ruling that held an employer liable for the injuries one of their employees suffered in a car accident while travelling either to or from the job site.

The employee, a maintenance supervisor working at the time for Lutheran Senior Services Management Company, wasn't scheduled to work the day of his accident. In fact, he was home sick.

However, the company had an "on call" system that was designed to ensure that emergency maintenance issues could be addressed outside of normal business hours. In this case, the security cameras at the job site were malfunctioning, so the company called the supervisor and asked him to come in to fix them.

That put him on what amounted to a special mission for his employer. Any special mission done for the convenience of an employer or in furtherance of the employer's business is an exception to the Going and Coming Rule.

It's important to note that special missions don't even have to be related to your actual job to qualify as something that's done for the convenience of the employer. For example, if you're an engineer, and your boss asks you to alter your commute a little in the morning in order to pick up doughnuts for the Friday morning staff meeting, that would also qualify as an exception to the Going and Coming Rule even though it had nothing to do with your work as an engineer.

Similarly, it doesn't even matter if the request was work-related. Your employer could ask you to swing by his or her home and pick up a forgotten lunch and it would still qualify as a special mission.

If you're unsure whether or not your injuries are covered by workers' compensation because they occurred off the usual job site, consider asking an attorney for advice.

Source: Penn Record, "Lutheran Senior Services loses in Workers' Comp case brought by worker hurt 'coming and going'," Nancy Crist, Feb. 22, 2017

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