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The Coming and Going Rule in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation

In Massachusetts, workers who get injured on their way to or from a fixed office or job site are usually not eligible for worker’s compensation the way that they would be if they were a worker traveling for work, or the way they would be if they were injured while on the job site. Workers’ compensation is designed to compensate employees who are injured at work. This is known as the coming and going rule and it can apply even when an employee has to use his or her car for a business purpose.

There are exceptions. The reviewing board has looked at whether an employee was being reimbursed for the cost of travel and whether the employee was being paid at the time the accident occurred. A travel allowance, even a small travel allowance, paid by one’s employer can lead to an injury being seen as compensable. In one case, the reviewing board ruled that the employment relationship started when the employee started towards her first call of the day because of the travel allowance.

In a recent Massachusetts workers’ compensation reviewing board decision (Joanne Sheremeta), the board considered the case of an employee who worked as a home health care giver, helping clients in their private residences. Her employer’s offices were located in Northampton, but usually she didn’t travel there and was not considered to have a fixed place of employment. Her job duties included traveling from her home to the client’s home and back to her own home or from one client to another.

She was paid hourly, but not usually paid for travel time or mileage. In 2010, she received a call from her employer asking her to cover another employer’s shift at a private home. The employee agreed and traveled to the home. While returning home, her car was struck by another car. She was injured. The judge determined that the accident was compensable. It was not barred by the coming and going rule because the employee didn’t have a fixed place of business and was compensated for travel time in certain cases (though not this one).

The insurer appealed. The insurer conceded it did not fall within the coming and going rule, but still argued the worker did not deserve compensation because she didn’t fall into an exception. The reviewing board determined that once the concession was made that she didn’t fall within the coming and going rule, the rest of the insurer’s arguments were waived.

There is also an exception for the company parking lot, when the employer has the legal duty to maintain the property or when the employer conditions employment on parking in a particular place. As you can see, worker’s compensation with respect to injuries sustained away from the actual place of business are subject to even more scrutiny than those injuries that occur on the job where an employee can be observed. Generally, injuries resulting from activities paid for by your employer that lead to injury are more likely to be compensated.

If you have been seriously injured on the job and are experiencing chronic pain, an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney may be able to help. Contact us by calling 800-367-0871 or using our online contact form.

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