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Georgia’s Coming and Going Rule: Employers’ Responsibility to Traveling Workers

One of the most common types of work-related accidents occur on the road in the from of traffic crashes. motorcycleboy.jpg

But whether an employer is required to pay Atlanta workers’ compensation claims stemming from automobile accidents depends largely on the state’s “Coming and Going Rule.”

Generally speaking, companies and their insurers are not responsible for paying benefits in cases where an employee was hurt during the daily commute. This is known as the “Coming and Going Rule.” This is usually the case even if the employee will be required to use his or her vehicle later in the work day for work purposes.

But there are exceptions, and those are primarily when the employee was traveling for the benefit of the employer when it was closely related to the worker’s job duties. Some specific exceptions include:

  • A worker’s requirement to travel to multiple job sites throughout the work day, particularly where the worker doesn’t have a specific, fixed location of employment.
  • The worker is a commercial traveler. The employee is for the most part considered to be acting within the scope of her employment the entire time she is away on business.
  • The employee is on his or her way to work, but is additionally performing a special task or errand requested by the employer prior to coming in.
  • Travel is part of the worker’s primary job duty. Examples would be if the worker is a delivery truck driver, bus driver or other traveling worker.

Recently, a firefighter in Maryland secured workers’ compensation benefits when the Maryland Court of Appeals found in Roberts v. Montgomery County that the firefighter’s travels were within the scope of his employment.

According to court records, the petitioner worked a firefighter for the county when he was injured on his motorcycle as he exited the highway, after leaving a required physical training at a local high school on his way to the fire station, where he would pick up his mail. From there, he intended to go to headquarters, where he would complete his work day.

At the time of the incident, the firefighter was working light duty, as a result of health problems associated with a prior compensable back injury. He worked four, 10-hour shifts, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. As with other firefighters on light duty, this one was encouraged by the department to engage in two hours of physical training during each shift. These hours were paid and the training could take place at any location of the firefighters’ choice.

On the day of the crash, he had gone to the high school to train from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. He was then going to pick up his mail and then go to headquarters. His supervisors had previously approved this course of actions during his work day.

The firefighter filed for workers’ compensation benefits, but the county disputed this claim, alleging it did not arise out of or in the course of his employment. Although they acknowledged that an injury occurring at the high school would have been compensable, they said he wasn’t at his work site until he reached headquarters.

Initially, the state’s workers’ compensation commission rejected the firefighter’s claim on the grounds cited by the county. The commission reasoned he was not traveling between two sections of his employer’s premises and he wasn’t in an employer parking lot. He was “simply on his way to work, driving his own motorcycle.”

The firefighter appealed, saying that but for his work-related duties of physical training and performing light duty work, he would not have been traveling between the high school and the fire station.

The circuit court granted the county’s motion for summary judgment, denying the firefighter’s claim. The court of special appeals affirmed this ruling.

The case was then appealed to the state appellate court, which ruled that the fire station, for this particular firefighter, was considered a work site because that is where his mail was received.

The court found, therefore, that the worker was en route from a work-related activity to a site where he was to engage in a work-related act to which the employer had acquiesced. Travel that is incidental to employment can’t be excluded by coverage in the coming and going rule. That means this firefighter is entitled to benefits.

Contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Atlanta. For a free consultation call 1-404-303-7770 today.

Additional Resources:
Roberts v. Montgomery County, Jan. 28, 2013, Maryland Court of Appeals

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OSHA Moving Forward with Standards to Improve Chemical Facility Safety, Dec. 30, 2013, Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog