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Scope of Employment in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Workers’ Compensation is generally considered a no-fault system.  Essentially, a worker who is injured on the job does not need to prove he or she was injured as result of any negligence on behalf of his or her employer, but only that he or she was injured and that injury occurred on the job.

law-order-1240301However, it should be noted that there is often more to the question of whether an injury occurred on the job that one might think. One of the major issues that arises is when an accident occurs on the way to work and on the way home from work.  Generally, a worker is not entitled to workers’ compensation by a result of what is known as the coming and going rule.

However, there are other close cases that involve whether a worker was injured while working within the scope of his or her employment, even if the accident occurred when the employee was technically on the clock.  This area of law goes back centuries and is not only related to workers’ compensation, which is a much newer concept.  The test to determine whether someone was acting within the scope of his or her employment originated from the concept of agency law to see if an employer was liable for the acts of his or her employee.  Generally speaking, if an employee was acting in some way to further the interests of his or her employer, then they were deemed to be acting within the scope of employment.

However, if an employee was acting solely for the benefit of themselves, he or she is said to have been on a frolic and detour, to use the old terminology, and they are not deemed to have been working within the scope of their employment.  A typical example of this involves a delivery driver who makes a delivery in the company truck and then stops to visit his girlfriend.  When an accident occurs, he may be said to be on a frolic and detour, and the employer is not responsible for this accident.

A recent news feature from Penn Live looks a case where a worker was seriously injured while trying to rescue a fellow worker.  In this case, worker was at a sewage treatment plant when a fellow worker fell into a concrete pit.  The victim died as a result of this tragic accident, and the employee who went into to the pit to help his co-worker was unable to breathe, since the pit was filled with methane gas. The worker fell off a ladder after passing out and fell to the ground, causing serious personal injury.

When he applied for workers’ compensation, his application was denied because his employer claimed he was not working in the scope of this employment when he tried to rescue the worker.   The plaintiff appealed the denial of workers’ compensation benefits, and the intermediary court of appeals reversed the decision saying the rescue effort was within the scope of his employment.  The state supreme court is set to hear the case.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston work accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Should worker injured in rescue bid be denied workers comp? Supreme Court will decide, March 10, 2016, PA Live, By Matt Miller

More Blog Entries:
Elevator Mechanic Killed when Falling Down Shaft, Jan. 24, 2015, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog