Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that covers employees who suffer a work-related injury. But what about injuries caused in a car accident? Does workers’ compensation cover this situation?
The answer? It depends. Workers’ compensation applies only in certain circumstances. Let’s discuss when and why workers’ compensation applies.
When Workers’ Compensation Does—and Doesn’t—Cover Car Accidents
Workers’ compensation does not apply in the following circumstances:
- You’re on your way to work when someone hits your car. The accident is not your fault. You sustain serious injuries.
- You’re on your way home from work when you hit another car. The accident is your fault. You sustain minor injuries.
- You decided to take a vacation day and extend a business trip. You get into an accident in the car you rented for the extra day. The accident is not your fault. You sustain minor injuries.
Now, here are a few circumstances in which workers’ compensation does apply:
- You are running an errand for your boss during the work day. While driving back to the workplace, you get into an accident with another car. It’s not your fault. You sustain minor injuries.
- You are driving to visit a client on behalf of your company. Another car hits yours. The accident is your fault. You sustain serious injuries.
- You are on a business trip and driving a rental car to perform business on behalf of your company. You get into an accident in which both you and the other driver are at fault. You sustain moderate injuries.
What is the difference in the above hypothetical scenarios? Is it whether or not you were at fault? Is it the severity of injuries sustained? Is it whether you got into an accident between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.?
Actually, it’s none of these.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program. Unlike other types of insurance claims (like those to your car insurance company), it doesn’t matter if you were at fault for the accident or not. Workers’ compensation allows you to apply for benefits (as long as your car accident is eligible) even if you caused the accident and your injuries. The exception to this rule is when the accident was caused by alcohol or drug use.
Similarly, the severity of your injuries does not affect whether or not you are eligible for benefits. If you have a minor injury, like a sprained ankle or strained back, you may apply for workers’ compensation. If you have severe injuries, like broken bones or internal bleeding, you may also apply for workers’ compensation.
If it’s not fault or severity of injury, what does affect whether or not your car accident and injuries are covered?
What really matters is whether or not the car accident is work-related. Workers’ compensation only covers car accidents that happen while you are doing work. This means that workers’ compensation would generally cover car accidents that happen while you are running an errand for work, making deliveries for your company, driving to visit a client, and driving on a business trip. It would also typically cover a motor vehicle accident if you drive for a living or do not have a fixed office (since you have to drive as part of your job).
However, workers’ compensation generally would not cover motor vehicle accident-related injuries that happen on the weekend (if you don’t work then), on vacation, and on your way to and from work. Let’s talk a bit more about this last example, because it can be tricky to understand.
The “Going and Coming Rule”
It may seem strange to you that workers’ compensation does not often cover driving to and from work. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation law does not view driving to and from work as work-related. This is known as the “going and coming” rule.
This means that workers’ compensation generally would not apply when you are driving to work in the morning, driving home from work in the evening, and driving to and from work to get lunch in the afternoon.
When You Can’t Get Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you aren’t eligible to get workers’ compensation benefits, you may be feeling a bit panicked. You may need compensation to pay for healthcare expenses and make up for lost wages.
The good news is that there are other options available to you after a car accident.
One such option is pursuing a personal injury claim. You don’t have to be eligible for workers’ comp to file a personal injury claim. (However, it’s important to note that civil claims are fault-based. The other driver must be at fault for you to file a personal injury claim.)
If you sustained injuries from a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you may consider filing a personal injury claim against the other driver. A successful personal injury claim will give you compensation for the injuries you suffered and for the damage done to your vehicle. It may also award you compensation if the other driver’s behavior was particularly negligent or outrageous (called punitive damages).
Call Us Today
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact us at one of our four offices. Our firm has both workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys to help you. At your free initial consultation, we can help you determine whether or not workers’ compensation applies in your situation and what your options are.
Call us today to schedule your consultation.