Claim Denial Because Employee was Going or Coming to Work or on Break – the “Ingress and Egress Rule”
Generally the Georgia workers’ compensation law provides that you are eligible for lost wage and medical benefits under workers’ compensation if you are injured in the course of employment and your injury arises from employment activities. What happens, however, if you are injured in the parking lot on your way into the worksite, or while onsite but on break.
Disputes between employers and employees injured in the vicinity of the worksite are the subject of many State Board decisions as well as appeals to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Sometimes the rulings by State Board judges are not entirely consistent and the results are often very specific to the facts. There are some some general trends in the law, although you should speak with an experienced lawyer about the facts of your specific case.
Ingress and Egress – generally, Georgia courts have held that an employee is not covered for injuries incurred while going to or coming from work. However, there are numerous exceptions. For example, if you are injured while on a company owned parking lot, your injury is most likely covered, but if you are injured on a public parking lot before you enter the employer’s premises you are probably not covered.
Dual Purpose – if your employer asks you to stop and pick up supplies on your way in to work, and you are injured after you alter your route to perform this requested action, you are probably covered.
Break Time – generally, an employee is not covered if injured while on break and the employee had freedom of action. Generally, injuries during scheduled breaks are not compensable, but, interestingly, injuries during unscheduled breaks usually are.
Telecommuters – the growth of teleworking arrangements (people working at home or at a remote site) has forced State Board judges and appellate court judges to make decisions in cases that were most likely not contemplated by the legislature. In addition, many accidents that occur when an employee is teleworking from home are unwitnessed. Some of factors that are considered by the State Board include how much control did the employer have and whether the employee was performing a task that would provide a benefit to the employer. Judges also look at employee handbooks to see if there are specific rules for break time. These cases are addressed by the State Board on a case by case basis and are very fact dependent.
Traveling from one job site to another – if an employee arrives at his worksite and then travels to another worksite at the request of his employer, he is most likely covered unless the employer can show that he deviated from his direct route to perform a task not related to his work.
As you can see, many of these situations look to the relationship between the employer and the employee. How much control does the employer have? Is the employee acting within a schedule set by the employer? Is the employee performing some task that can be related to his job duties. Many of these cases are very fact specific and you need to be very careful about the wording you use when you report your injury.