Will Workers Comp Cover You For Injuries On Your Way To Work?
May 14, 2018
Ty Hyderally, Esq., and Jennifer, Esq.
We had several snow storms this winter, which left a lot of New Jerseyans wondering whether they had to drive to work during a State of Emergency (see our March 8, 2018, blog), as well as what would happen if they became injured while traveling to work in hazardous conditions. The Appellate Division recently shed a little more light on this issue.
In 2014, Antoine Minter was employed as a kitchen worker by Friends Village at Woodstown. Minter usually took the bus to work, but sometimes got a ride to work from a coworker, William Mattson. On March 17, 2014, a big snowstorm hit New Jersey, and the bus Minter usually took to work was canceled. Minter thus called work and told his supervisor, Dan Beggs, that he could not come to work. Beggs, the Executive Chef, informed the Dining Director, John Lear, of the situation.
Lear was aware that Mattson lived in the same town as Minter and sometimes drove him to work. Lear directed Beggs to ask Mattson if he could give Minter a ride that day. Mattson agreed, and let Minter know that Beggs had said that they both had to come to work, and had told Mattson to Minter a ride. On the way to work, Mattson was involved in an accident, and Minter was severely injured. He was trapped inside the car, both his legs were broken, and he suffered broken ribs and a deep laceration to his left arm.
New Jersey employees who are injured at work must look to Worker’s Compensation to cover them for their injuries. The Worker’s Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for injuries which result from accidents, “arising out of and in the course of employment.” Generally, employees are not covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance while they are traveling to or from work, because such travel has been deemed not to be “in the course of employment.” But the New Jersey Supreme Court has held that, if your employer compels you to do something, that fact brings the activity into the scope of your employment. Here, Minter was able to show that he believed that he had to accept a ride from Mattson, and that this belief was objectively reasonable.
Thus, the Appellate Division held that Minter’s injuries occurred in the course of Minter’s employment, and were covered by his employer’s Worker’s Compensation insurance.
The Appellate Division also considered two other issues in this matter: whether the trial court should have let the Division of Compensation decide whether Minter was acting in the course of his employment, and whether Beggs and Lear’s employer – Morrison – which had a contract with the Friends Village to provide dining services, was thereby Minter’s “special employer.” The Appellate Division held that: (1) the trial court was not compelled to allow the Compensation Division to decide the issue of whether the accident occurred “in the course of” Minter’s employment, and (2) Morrison was not Minter’s “special employer,” and the trial court had erred in so holding. If Morrison were Minter’s “special employer,” this would have meant that Minter could not be compensated by Friends Village’s Worker’s Compensation Carrier.
This blog is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice, and may not reasonably be relied upon as such. If you face a legal issue, you should consult a qualified attorney for independent legal advice with regard to your particular set of facts. This blog may constitute attorney advertising. This blog is not intended to communicate with anyone in a state or other jurisdiction where such a blog may fail to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state of jurisdiction.