driving imageThe Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board recently affirmed workers’ compensation benefits for a computer technician who was injured in a motor vehicle accident.

The issue in the case of Corbitt v. Homenet Inc., 28 PAWCLR 128 (Pa. W.C.A.B. 2013) was whether the worker was entitled to benefits for an accident that occurred while she was driving home from work. In affirming the ruling of a workers’ compensation judge, the Appeal Board focused on an exception to the “coming and going” rule that would typically apply.

The computer technician was driving home after finishing up with her last client of day when she was involved in the accident. She applied for workers’ compensation benefits, but her employer denied the benefits, and the claim went before a workers’ compensation judge.

The judge found that the worker was within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. The employer appealed the ruling to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, arguing that the worker was outside of the scope of employment at the time of the collision because she was driving home.

‘Scope of Employment’

In Pennsylvania, a worker must be “within the scope of employment” at the time of an injury to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Generally, a worker who is involved in a crash “coming or going” from work is not entitled to benefits because the worker is not working at the time of the collision. When the worker is required to travel as part of a job, the issue becomes more complex to determine whether the accident occurred within the scope of employment.

First, the Board had to determine whether the technician is a traveling employee. Testimony and evidence showed that the employee worked at various locations for clients, completed paperwork at a home office, and was not required to report to the employer’s office before going to a client’s site.

Furthermore, she regularly traveled between 25 and 30 hours per week and remained on call until the close of the employer’s business each day. Collectively, this led to the determination that the worker was, indeed, a traveling employee. However, even a traveling employee is typically not entitled to benefits for injuries that occur while he or she is coming or going from work.

The Board next focused on whether the technician was “furthering the interests of the employer’s business” when deciding the “scope of employment” issue.  The technician admitted that she had planned to run a personal errand on her way home. However, she was still on the route she normally took to her home when the accident happened. Furthermore, she was driving a company vehicle, which served the company’s purposes by saving on gas and making the worker available for emergencies.  Ultimately, the Board found that the facts in amounted to an exception to the general “coming and going” rule and that the worker was entitled to benefits.

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