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Williams v. Petromark Drilling – Challenge to Workers’ Comp Coming and Going Rule

In Massachusetts, as in almost all other states, when a worker is injured during their commute to work, those injuries are not considered eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
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Boston workers’ compensation lawyers note this “coming-and-going rule” can be applicable even when someone must use their vehicle as part of their job.

And yet, one of the most common claims for benefits stem from work-related auto accidents. Many of these cases are successful. What is key to prove is that the crash occurred in the course of one’s employment. Often, the facts are weighed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the employee can be compensated for those injuries.

A recent example of one such challenge was seen in the Kansas Supreme Court with the case of Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC. Here, the worker was injured in a co-worker’s vehicle while on his way home from work. On the surface, this fact alone would seem to indicate the claim would not qualify for workers’ compensation. But it did not work out that way.

The worker in this case was employed by a drilling company, which was responsible for maintaining numerous sites located some 60 miles from the worker’s home. Each day, he would travel to the home of his boss, and the two would ride together throughout the day from site-to-site, managing the various operations. The company reimbursed the supervisor for his mileage, but the plaintiff in this case and other workers were not reimbursed for their travel time or costs.

On the day the injury occurred, the worker instead met a co-worker at his home and drove to various sites with him. At the end of the day, as the two prepared to head back, the complainant noticed his co-worker’s tires were low. The two worked to fill the tires and then continued on. Still, one of the tires made noises and continued to lose air, so they stopped. The co-worker was hasty, and failed to fill the tire all the way.

They got back on the road, and within two minutes, the tire blew out and the driver lost control of the vehicle. They crashed, with the complainant sustaining serious injuries.

His bid for workers’ compensation was denied, with the administrative law judge finding the injures were not compensable because they didn’t arise out of and in the course of the worker’s employment.

That decision was appealed to the ALJ board, which reversed in a split 3-2 decision. The panel indicated the worker’s job required him to travel from drill site to drill site, and although he wasn’t reimbursed for mileage, travel was inherent to the job. The court indicated that when travel is an inherent part of the job, the coming and going rule was inapplicable.

An appellate court reversed, but then the state supreme court reversed again. The high court indicted the tire blowout occurred in the course and scope of employment because it happened during travel that was intrinsic to his duties as an employee.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC, June 6, 2014, Kansas Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Bridge Repair Safety: Construction Workers Injured in Accident, June 21, 2014.