A Pennsylvania court finds an exception to the "going and coming" rule

Typically, an employee is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if injured in an accident while traveling to or from work.

If you sustain a job injury or a work-related illness, the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act will pay for your medical expenses and compensate you for your lost wages until such time as you can go back to work. Moreover, death benefits are paid to your dependent survivors in the event of a work-related death. However, before someone is eligible for workers' compensation, it has to be established that the injury or illness is work related. Stated otherwise, the injury or illness must result from and be within the scope and course of employment.

In Pennsylvania, an employee commuting to and from work is typically not considered to be in the course and scope of employment. The Horton Group, a business insurer, observes that if employees have an accident on the way to or from work "they are usually on their own and will not have access to benefits under workers' compensation." This is referred to as the "going and coming rule."

Chesapeake Employers' Insurance states that workers' compensation was not intended to "insure workers against the common perils of life" such as traveling to and from work. Many employees, of course, are called upon to travel in order to conduct business on behalf of their employer. As a result the courts have carved our various exceptions to the going and coming rule over the years.

The Holler decision

Recently, a Pennsylvania court applied one of the exceptions to the going and coming rule in Holler v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board. In Holler, the claimant was a cable technician who installed cable and network services at the homes or businesses of his employer's customers. The claimant reported into the facility each day to receive his assignments and to pick up his equipment. He then left and spent the remainder of the day "traveling to and working at various customer locations." The employer allowed him to take a company-owned vehicle home each evening and drive it to the employer's facility the next day.

One morning, while driving to the employer's facility, the claimant was involved in a single-vehicle accident which caused him to sustain disabling injuries. He was unable to return to work after the accident. The employer argued that the going and coming rule applied since, at the time the accident occurred, the claimant was on his way to the employer's facility.

The court noted that one of the exceptions to the going and coming rule is when an employee/claimant "has no fixed place of work" and is a traveling employee. Further, the court found that the mere fact that an employer has a central office to which an employee sometimes travels to is not controlling on the issue of whether the employee has no fixed place of work.

After reviewing the facts, the court reached the conclusion that the claimant's injury, though sustained while the claimant was on his way to the employer's facility, occurred during the course and scope of his employment since he was a traveling employee with no fixed place of work. Consequently, the going and coming rule did not apply and the claimant was entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

Seeking compensation

If you have been injured while traveling on behalf of your employer, you should immediately contact a Pennsylvania attorney experienced in handling workers' compensation claims. The attorney can investigate the facts of your situation and determine whether you may be eligible for benefits.

Keywords: workers' compensation, traveling to work, traveling from work, "going and coming" rule