Injuries Suffered While Coming and Going to Work

The great majority of Californians who work, drive to work in their personal vehicles. Since these individuals drive their own personal vehicles to work, they also drive their personal vehicles home from work.

What if a person who drives to work in their personal vehicle and drives home from work in their personal vehicle is involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving either to work or home from work, and sustains injuries in that motor vehicle accident, is that person covered by workers’ compensation?

This question is of great importance because many motor vehicle accidents occur while a worker is commuting to work or home from work. The answer to this question under the GENERAL Rule of California Workers’ Compensation law is quite simple – NO they are not covered by workers compensation law.

It should be noted, however, that the statement that such a person would not be covered by workers’ compensation is only a “GENERAL RULE”, and there are there are many, many “EXCEPTIONS”, to this general rule.

The general rule referred to above that denies workers compensation benefits to workers injured while traveling to work and home from work is often referred to as the “GOING AND COMING RULE”. This general rule is based upon the premise that an employer derives no benefit during the period of time in which an employee is engaged in an ordinary commute to and from work.

However, as noted above, there are numerous “EXCEPTIONS” to this GENERAL RULE. If any one of the MANY EXCEPTIONS to the general rule applies, then an employee who is injured while traveling to or from work is covered by workers compensation and is entitled to workers compensation benefits.

The practical result of any EXCEPTION to the general rule applying to a factual scenario, is that an employee is covered by workers’ compensation from the time they leave home to go to work, until they arrive at home after work.

In reality, the EXCEPTIONS to the general rule apply to more factual situations than does the general rule. Nevertheless, employers and their insurance companies will usually deny any claim arising out of a motor vehicle accident in which an employee sustains injuries while traveling to work or home from work.

So what are these EXCEPTIONS to the “Going and Coming Rule”?

As mentioned above there are many EXCEPTIONS. The most commonly applied exceptions are discussed below.

Scenario 1.

Employee is injured on his way to work [or on his way home from work].  The employer has several jobsites.  There is a history of this employee working at least once per week at two different jobsites on the same day.  The jobsites are more than one-half mile apart from each other and the employer does not provide transportation between these jobsites when the employee moves from one jobsites to the other.

This employee’s injury is covered by workers compensation because having his personal vehicle available at work is an “implied condition of employment”. See Hinojosa v. W.C.A.B.(1972) 8 C.3d 150, 104 Cal.Rptr. 456, 37 C.C.C. 734

Scenario 2.

Employee is a farm worker who is injured in a motor vehicle accident while riding as a passenger in a van that is taking him to work [or home from work].  The foreman at the time that he hired this farm worker was aware that the farm worker did not have transportation to get to the worksite. Because of this the foreman, at the time the hired this employee, assigned this employee to ride to work with a particular individual who owned a van.  The farm worker then pays the owner of the van $5 dollars per day for being taken to the job site and back to his home at the end of the workday.

This employee’s injury is covered by workers compensation because the foreman has been directly involved in arranging the transportation of this employee to work.

See Travertine Vineyard Association v. WCAB(1976) 41 Cal. Comp 357 and Zenith Insurance Company v. WCAB (1984) 49 Cal. Comp. 584

Scenario 3.

Employee is injured on his way to work [or on his way home from work].  Although there is no express or implied requirement that the employee use their own vehicle to run errands for the employer, a practice has developed where the employee does on a regular basis use his own vehicle in order to run those errands.

This employee’s injury is covered by workers compensation because using his personal vehicle has become an “accommodation” to the employer. See County of Tulare v. W.C.A.B.;Caires  (1985) 170 C.A.3d 1247, 216Cal.Rptr. 885, 50 C.C.C. 435.

Robert F. Perez, the senior partner and founder of PEREZ, WILLIAMS, MEDINA & RODRIGUEZ specializes in litigating the going and coming rule and its exceptions. Mr. Perez in his 46 years of litigating going and coming cases has only lost one case.

Should you, a family member or a friend be involved in the motor vehicle accident while traveling to or from work you should consult Mr. Perez or one of the other experienced attorneys at PEREZ, WILLIAMS MEDINA and RODRIGUEZ for a free analysis of your case.

Do not believe your employer, supervisor or their insurance company when they tell you that your motor vehicle accident is not covered by workers compensation!