Court holds NC state workers hurt outside course of employment

When a worker gets injured on the job, he or she may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. A successful claim can ensure their medical expenses arising out of the injury are covered and lost wages are recouped. However, even though it is an injured worker’s right to file a claim, a case is not always initially successful. It is therefore important to know not only the applicable rules of the workers’ compensation process, but also what it entails. Not every accident is a slip-and-fall at an office space. In fact, some accidents take place outside of the immediate workspace and the rules governing such injuries can be complex.

One such example can be seen in the recent ruling handed down by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. In the immediate case, two state employees were injured while they were driving back from a voluntary lunch that was hosted by their supervisor. The two drove to the lunch in a state owned vehicle. According to court records, most of the employees invited to the lunch did not show up, and the attendees were required to pay for their own lunch but did receive a group discount.

On the way back, the car skidded after hitting a patch of ice and hit a tree, resulting in permanent injuries for one of the employees and a concussion for the other. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety denied their workers’ compensation claims. During a hearing, the Deputy Commissioner of the Industrial Commission decided the injuries were compensable and the Department of Public Safety appealed the decision.

Finally, after going several rounds in court, the Court of Appeals held that the injuries were not suffered during the course of employment but were instead suffered by a threat that is common to the public as they were on a public road. It also held that the lunch was a social event and not part of their employment.

Understanding the concept ‘course of employment’ may often be essential to a workers’ compensation claim. Therefore, staying abreast with changing laws to remain aware of evolving concepts is important. But it may be difficult for injured North Carolina workers to do this on their own. They thus may want to consider consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to understand the scope and nature of the legal process to ensure they are properly compensated for their injuries, if possible.

Source: Business Insurance, “Workers injured while traveling from supervisor’s party not due comp: N.C. Court,” July 16, 2014

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