Because Vermont is a rural state, many people drive an hour or more to get to work each day. All this time on the road increases the odds of a car crash, especially when snow and slush cover the road. One question we receive atLarson & Gallivan Law is whether these commuters can receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Unfortunately, the general rule is that most driving-related accidents are not covered by workers’ compensation in Vermont, although there are exceptions. You should schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer to see if your case falls under one of the exceptions. Ourworkers’ compensation attorneys explain in more detail below.
Were You Traveling to Get to Work?
Workers’ compensation insurance covers work-related injuries. What does that mean, exactly? Well, according to the law, your injury must have “arisen out of” and “in the course of” employment. Essentially, you must have been working when you were injured.
Believe it or not, driving from home to work—or from work back home at the end of the day—does not qualify as “in the course of” or “arising out of” employment.
Instead, the Vermont Supreme Court has adopted the “coming and going rule.” Essentially, if you are coming into work from home, or going home after work, any accident on the road will not be work-related. Instead, you are like anyone else, a retiree or unemployed person, who is involved in a car crash. So you typically do not receive workers’ comp benefits.
The Exceptions to the Rule
As in all areas of law, there are exceptions to this rule. Some people will qualify for workers’ comp benefits even when traveling on the road. Our legal team will always analyze whether we can fit your car accident into one of these exceptions. Let’s look at the most common:
- You were injured on your employer’s property. For example, you might have been in the parking lot leaving at the end of the day when you were struck by another driver. Or you could have just entered the premises to start your day when a forklift ends up colliding with your car. Because you are literally on the job site, you might qualify for workers’ compensation, even if you haven’t yet started your shift (or if you have already clocked off for the day). The Vermont Supreme Courthas said that someone with fixed hours and a place of work can receive compensation for injuries on the premises when they are coming or going to work. The same is true if you slipped and fell on some ice as you went into work to start your shift.
- You don’t have a fixed workplace but travel as part of your job. Some people travel all day. For example, truckers and delivery workers are always on the road. Other people must travel to visit clients or make presentations to potential clients when drumming up business. When you travel as part of your job, then a car accident is probably a qualifying, compensable injury under workers’ compensation.
- You are injured in an employer-provided vehicle. Some companies provide a vehicle to their employees to use as a company benefit. When an accident happens in one of these vehicles, it is probably compensable. You should definitely contact a Vermont workers’ compensation lawyer to review.
- Your employer requires you to run errands. You might also qualify for benefits if your employer asks you to pick something up for work on your way in or drop something off on your way home. For example, you might take packages for work to the post office on your way home. If you are struck while driving to the post office, then this accident might be compensable.
These are some of the most common exceptions to the general rule. There could be others. This is a fact-specific inquiry, looking at many factors, such as whether your employer controls your travel route in or out of work. If you were injured, then meet with an attorney to discuss whether you can request benefits.
You Could Also Sue the Driver Who Hit You
In some situations, workers’ compensation might be the only benefits you receive. For example, you might have slid off slushy roads in early spring. No one else is really to blame for that—it’s simply bad luck due to our weather.
In other cases, however, a driver might have struck you or forced you off the road. Imagine a drunk driver crossing the median and heading right at you. The only way to avoid a crash is to jerk the wheel to the right, and then you suddenly slide into a ditch and injure yourself. Or a distracted motorist could slam into you as you go through an intersection.
In cases like these, you could sue the driver for negligence. This is a personal injury claim, not a workers’ compensation one. Ideally, you will hire a law firm with experience in both areas. At Larson & Gallivan, we have helped many people file auto accident claims, in addition to our deep workers’ comp experience, so we know how to negotiate a settlement with a car insurer.
Car accident cases, unlike workers’ comp, are “fault” based. This requires that we identify who is responsible for the wreck so that we can make a claim on their insurer or sue them in court. We can seek a full array of damages for our car accident victims, including property damage and pain and suffering.
Contact Us for More Information
Job-related injuries cause significant stress and financial loss. You owe it to yourself and your family to find out whether you can obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Please call our law firm today, 802-327-8458, to learn more about your rights.