by David P. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
With the recent Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decision of Hospice Family Care v. Allen, employees who are injured during the course of running personal errands may still be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits.
In Allen, an employee was frequently traveling as part of her employment. One afternoon, the employee was traveling home to finish completing tasks for her employer when she briefly stopped at the pharmacy to pick up personal items. When the employee left the pharmacy and proceeded towards her house, she was struck by another vehicle and killed on impact. The employee’s husband brought suit against her employer for workers’ compensation benefits. The employer alleged that because the employee had stopped for a personal errand, workers’ compensation did not apply.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals found that where an employee travels as a part of their job and makes a personal stop that is very minimal, then the claim is not barred. It is only when the employee substantially deviates from their course of employment that the claim is barred and recovery is not warranted under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.
In this particular case, it was also important to note that the personal errand had been completed and the employee had commenced the journey home. Testimony indicated that this employee frequently worked from home in order to complete tasks for her employer and that her employer encouraged her to do so.
What Allen tells us is that a traveling employee injured after running a brief personal errand can still recover workers’ compensation benefits where the daily duties of their employment have yet to be completed. The employee must completely abandon their employment for personal reasons in order to be disqualified from workers’ compensation benefits.
An essential factor, according to Justice Moore in his concurring opinion, is the inherent risk that is placed on employees who are required to travel frequently. Companies that require their employees to frequent the interstate highways place their employees at a greater risk of injury or death. Essentially, it is an occupational hazard for an employee who frequently travels by car to perform their job duties. Because of this greater risk and occupational hazard that the employer places on their traveling employees, the employer should be liable for any resulting injury, disability or death. This is based on the premise that the employer receives a benefit from the travel, especially where the employee uses their own vehicle, therefore the employer should be responsible when an injury occurs as a result of that travel.
This case proves to be important for any employees injured while traveling for their employer and equally important for those traveling employees who may need to make a quick stop at the pharmacy in the middle of their daily duties.
We have handled cases very similar to the Allen case. In these similar cases, not only have we been able to help our clients receive workers’ compensation benefits, but we also help our clients with their third party auto collision case against the other driver that caused our client’s injuries. If you have been injured in an auto collision while working, contact the attorneys at the Nomberg Law Firm today to discuss your rights and benefits. (205) 930-6900 or nomberglaw.com
David P. Nomberg has represented injured Alabama workers for 13 years. David has earned an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating in civil practice, personal injury and workers’ compensation. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/10957255@N08/2957925933″>Head-on Car Accident</a> via <a href=”https://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>