The days of the sample-toting traveling salesman might be long gone, but plenty of people still travel for work. Whether visiting another branch, attending a conference, presenting a sales pitch to a potential client, or simply performing your job as a truck driver or flight attendant, if you are injured outside of the actual office (or truck or airplane), filing a workers’ comp claim could be complicated.
While Ohio workers’ comp covers injuries sustained during the “course and scope of employment,” there is often disagreement about when you are on the clock and when you are not. Being on a business trip muddies the water even further.
Business Travel Is Not the Same as “Coming and Going” to Work
Ohio is clear about one thing—workers are not covered by their employer’s workers’ comp policy while they are coming to work or going home. Known as the “coming and going rule,” this says that you are not covered if you get into a car accident on your way to work, fall in Wendy's at lunchtime, or get attacked on your way to the bus stop after work. This rule primarily applies to “fixed-situs” workers with a single work location, such as an office or restaurant, but it is often also applied to people who work at a different site every day, such as a home health care aide or housekeeper.
When Injuries on Business Trips Should Be Covered
Anyone who has been on a business trip knows that it is rarely all business. You might take advantage of your situation by playing a little more than you work—and that’s between you and your employer. Your employer might overlook a few bar tabs on the company credit card, but if you are in an accident and suffer a serious injury, what you were doing at the time of the accident will not be overlooked.
If you were injured while at a restaurant, during a voluntary, after-hours social event, or in an accident when you were intoxicated, it’s very unlikely that you will qualify for workers’ comp. However, if any of the following were true at the time of your accident, you might have a valid claim:
- You were in a rental car booked and paid for by your employer on the way to a job site or the airport.
- You were entertaining clients or customers on the company credit card at the time of the accident.
- You were having a business lunch with coworkers paid for with your per diem allowance.
- You were in a hotel or conference center between meetings or presentations.
Other situations might qualify for coverage, but you are likely to have a battle with your employer or MCO. Your best bet is to contact a workers’ comp attorney to evaluate your circumstances.
What If Travel Is One of Your Job Duties?
Unlike a fixed-situs employee who is on a business trip, a traveling employee is someone for whom travel is their job—airline crew members and truck drivers, for example. These employees are covered by workers’ comp for the entire time they are pursuing the employer’s business. Unless they are on a purely personal errand, injuries they sustain in a car accident, slip and fall, assault, or other incident should be covered by workers’ comp. (Note: Over-the-road truckers are special cases. Depending on the circumstances of their overnights, they may or may not be covered, but I guarantee the claim will be contested by the employer.)
We recently had a case that was the perfect example of this. As a flight attendant for an Ohio-based regional airline, our client was definitely a traveling employee. After suffering a head injury in a hotel room fall while she was on a layover, she filed a workers’ comp claim. Her employer denied the claim, saying she was on a rest period. We showed, however, that according to the terms of her employment, she was on the clock—even during the night—and her claim was allowed.
What to Do If You Are Injured While Traveling for Work
If you find yourself in another state or off-site location when you suffer an injury, you should not be worried about any of this. Your only concern should be seeking nearby medical care. If you are able, note what happened, keep all medical records, and inform your employer of the accident as soon as possible. If your employer or MCO gives you any trouble once you return to Ohio, call Monast Law Office.