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When is an off-site injury work-related?

When considering whether workers' compensation insurance will cover your injury, you may find the term "workplace accident" misleading. Do not assume an incident is not work-related just because it happened when you were off the clock or somewhere other than the place where you work.

Here are some examples of workplace injuries that may qualify for workers' compensation benefits:

  • You are running an errand: The streets are icy, and your boss asks you to pick up a bag of sand on your way to work. In the parking lot of the store, you slip and fall on a patch of ice. You were performing a work-related errand, so your injuries from the fall are likely to receive compensation.
  • You are traveling for work: Say your employer has several locations that you must frequently travel between. Or, you are driving to a meeting in another town. In either of these cases, the travel arises from your employment because your employer requires it. Therefore, if you are in a motor vehicle accident on your trip, you probably qualify for workers' compensation.
  • You are at a work-sponsored event: Your employer has a company picnic, and while participating in the three-legged race, you twist your ankle and sprain it badly. Because the event is work-related, workers' compensation benefits will probably pay for your visit to the doctor for X-rays, your crutches and other medical expenses.

Even if your off-site accident occurred while you were within the scope of your job, it is not a guarantee you will receive benefits. Here are some reasons an insurance company may deny your claim:

  • You were acting recklessly: While walking through the icy parking lot, you decide to run and slide across a frozen puddle. As you get up speed, you slip. Because you should have known your action was unsafe, you may not qualify for workers' compensation.
  • You stopped to take care of a personal matter: While driving between work locations, you decide to make a quick detour to your house and grab some lunch. When turning at the intersection near your house, a vehicle hits you. You were not performing work-related business at that time, so workers' compensation may not apply. (However, you may still be eligible for compensation from the at-fault driver's insurance.)
  • You were under the influence of alcohol: Your employer did not serve alcohol at the picnic, but several people brought some, and you had a drink or more. Your impairment will probably keep you from qualifying for workers' compensation.

In the end, whether an injury qualifies may come down to the decision of an administrative law judge. So, do not assume your injury will not qualify. Gather as much information as possible to support your claim that the accident was work-related, and prepare to defend your right to compensation.

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