Getting into an automobile accident is scary enough, but what happens if the car accident was work-related? If you get into a wreck while driving for work, the exact circumstances of your accident will determine whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation. It’s important for you to understand your legal rights so you can get the benefits you deserve.
The attorneys of Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP, handle accidents that fall under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation laws. If you’ve been in a work-related accident, you may be entitled to seek benefits from your employer. Let us answer your questions and help give you peace of mind.
Different Types Of Work-Related Car Accidents
No two car accidents are alike, especially those involving workers’ compensation claims. You could be driving a vehicle that’s owned, leased, or rented by your employer. Or you may be driving your own car, but in some sort of work capacity.
Generally, either workers’ compensation or personal injury law (negligence) will apply to accidents like these. And that requires consideration of the circumstances that were in place at the time of the accident.
For example, accidents that happen while the employee was driving to or from work are not usually covered by workers’ compensation laws (with some exceptions like those mentioned below). This is true even if the vehicle was owned, leased, or rented by your employer. However, workers’ compensation may apply if, at the time of the accident, you were performing a work-related task. More specifically, the accident must have happened while you were acting within the scope of your employment.
“Scope Of Employment” And How It Applies To Your Work-Related Accident
Employers are only responsible for paying a workers’ compensation claim if the accident happened during the scope of employment. But this phrase can apply to a number of different automobile accident scenarios. Some common examples include:
Driving is part of your job. This is the most straightforward case where workers’ compensation would cover your accident. This category includes jobs like paramedic driver, delivery truck driver, or anything else where driving is an integral part of the job function.
Driving to perform work errands. This could include routine, daily work activities like driving files from one office to another. Or it could include an infrequent event like going out to pick up company supplies.
Driving to a client or business meeting. If you leave your worksite, but you’re not going home or otherwise engaging in non-work activity, there’s a good chance workers’ compensation laws will apply. Driving to a client or business meeting is an example of this.
Driving to a client’s home or business. Similarly, driving to a client’s home or business will likely be covered. However, the standard rule still applies: the purpose of the commute has to be sufficiently related to your work, rather than a personal reason.
Driving with no fixed place of work. As mentioned above, workers’ compensation usually doesn’t apply where the worker was injured driving to and from work. An exception to this is where the employee has no fixed place of work. For example, the employee may work from home, or may be a “traveling employee” (e.g. a technician who installs cable at numerous homes and businesses during the day).
As you can probably imagine, whether workers’ compensation or personal injury law applies after a work-related accident is a very fact-specific question.
Can You Pursue Workers’ Compensation And Personal Injury After a Work-Related Car Accident?
If you were involved in a work-related car accident that was within the scope of your employment, you may be able to pursue both a workers’ compensation and personal injury (negligence) claim at the same time. The workers’ compensation claim would be against your employer, while the negligence claim would be pursued, for example, against the negligent driver. The latter is also known as a third party claim, and is a separate legal matter from the workers’ compensation claim.
You may want to consider both claims because the available compensation is different. Workers’ compensation will cover medical treatment and lost wages. But you can file a third party lawsuit against the negligent driver to receive compensation for pain and suffering and property damage.
It’s important to understand, however, that your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier may be entitled to a portion of the money won from the at-fault driver. This happens in a process known as subrogation. Typically, the insurer will file a lien against the recovery in order to get back some of the monies it paid on your workers’ compensation claim.
What If You Were At Fault?
Negligence is typically not relevant in an accident that is covered by workers’ compensation. The same is true for a work-related automobile accident, provided the accident occurred during the scope of employment. This means that an employee may be able to pursue workers’ compensation benefits even if he or she is later determined to be at-fault.
However, if the driver was reckless at the time of the accident, there’s a good chance the workers’ compensation claim will be denied. A common example is that the employee driver was engaged in illegal activity, such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Contact Our Lancaster Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The factual circumstances of your work-related automobile accident will make a significant difference in your available compensation. You may only be able to pursue a claim against the negligent third-party driver. Or, it’s possible you can seek workers’ compensation benefits and third-party damages at the same time. If you’ve been in an accident that’s work-related, speak with Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP. We can help you pursue your workers’ compensation claim so you get the benefits you need after your accident. Call us today.