Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Me If I’m Injured While Traveling in My Own Car?
The normal rule when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits in Iowa is that you are covered for injuries that occur while you are “coming and going” to work. That is to say, if you are in an auto accident while commuting to your job in the morning, your employer does not have to cover your medical bills or lost wages under workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation only covers losses that occur in the “course of employment,” which normally means when you actually arrive at the job site and begin performing actual work.
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But there is a critical exception to this “coming and going” rule for cases where an employee is required to use their personal vehicle for work-related tasks during the working day. So, for instance, if your employer requires you to drive your personal car to meet a client in the afternoon and you get into an accident, that would be a situation covered by workers’ compensation.
A recent decision from the Iowa Court of Appeals, Carroll Area Nursing Services v. Malloy, offers a practical illustration of this exception. The plaintiff in this case is a nursing services company that challenged a workers’ compensation award in favor of the defendant, one of its employees.
One day in October 2014, the defendant took the morning off from work to attend to a personal medical appointment. While returning from the doctor, she received a call regarding one of her patients. The plaintiff then took her personal vehicle to meet with the patient, but got into an accident on the way.
The plaintiff argued that the defendant had “deviated” from her employment to attend to a personal matter and was therefore not acting within the course of her employment when the accident occurred. The Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation disagreed, holding the exception to the coming-and-going rule applied here. The plaintiff then appealed, first to a district court and later the Court of Appeals.
But neither court sided with the employer. The Court of Appeals noted that based on the facts presented, the defendant “had not abandoned her employment to the extent that she was removed from the course of her employment.” Although the defendant had been running a personal errand, by the time of the accident, “she was in her work uniform, with her work supplies in her car,” and traveling to a patient’s house. That is to say, the defendant “was engaged in the work she was required to do–traveling to patients homes to provide medical services.”
Speak with an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
Workers’ compensation benefits often turn on specific facts and technical issues of law. So if your employer is balking at paying you benefits following a work-related accident, you should speak with a qualified Southeast Iowa workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options. Contact the Noyes Law Office, P.C., today to schedule a consultation with a member of our workers’ compensation legal team.