The Going and Coming Rule
Not all injuries suffered while commuting to work are exempt from Workers’ Compensation. A recent Commonwealth Court case argued by Abes Baumann reversed the decisions of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and the Workers’ Compensation Judge and found that a Claimant injured on his way to work suffered a work related injury.
The Claimant was employed as a cable technician responsible for installing cable and network services for his employer at customers’ homes and businesses. Claimant reported to work each day at Employer’s facility where he clocked in and picked up his assignments and equipment for the day. He then spent the rest of the work day traveling to and working at various customer locations. The Employer allowed Claimant to take the company vehicle home each night and use it to report to work in the mornings. Claimant was not allowed to have passengers in the vehicle, and he was not permitted to use the vehicle for any other purpose besides work.
Claimant was injured while driving the company vehicle to Employer’s facility to get his work assignments for the day. He was injured in a single car accident which resulted in significant injuries and required life-flight transportation to the hospital.
Claimant filed a Claim Petition. Employer objected to the Claim Petition asserting that Claimant was not in the course of his employment at the time of his injury.
The Court noted that pursuant to the “going and coming rule,” injuries sustained while an employee is traveling to and from his place of employment are outside the course of employment; therefore, not compensable under the PA Workers’ Compensation Act. However, there are exceptions to the “going and coming rule.” The exceptions include: 1) the claimant’s employment contract includes transportation; 2) the claimant has no fixed place of work; 3) the claimant was on a special mission for the employer; and 4) the special circumstances are such that the claimant was furthering the business of the employer.
In a prior case, the Court stated that a cable technician is a traveling employee. Like our case, that claimant was a cable technician who was given a company van to drive to and from work, and he was prohibited from using for the vehicle for non-work purposes. That claimant also reported to office each day to pick up his paperwork, then traveled to customer’s locations, returning to the office to drop off paperwork. He was injured in an auto accident on the way to work. The Court determined he was a traveling employee as he was not in the office for more than 15 minutes a day.
The Court stated our case was “factually indistinguishable” from the prior case. Therefore, the Court adopted reasoning in the prior case and found that our Claimant was a traveling employee with no fixed place of work, thus exempt from the going and coming rule. Our Claimant was entitled to the presumption that he was working for Defendant when driving from his house to office. The Commonwealth Court concluded our Claimant’s injury occurred during the course and scope of employment and was compensable under the Act.