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Worker’s Comp

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We get quite a few cases that deal with injuries where the claimant was injured on their way to work and ask, am I entitled to benefits under the Utah Worker’s Compensation Act?

The answer is: Yes and No!

The law in Utah, and in 99% of other jurisdictions, defines compensable claims as an “accident arising out of and in the course of employment” (See U.C.A. 34A-2-405(1)). While volumes have been written on that statement over the years, (See Arthur Larson, Larson’s Law of Workmen’s Compensation (1996)), that term excludes the normal “coming and going” to and from work; with important exceptions.

Under the “coming and going” rule, “in most instances, such an injury is suffered as a consequence of risks and hazards to which all members of the traveling public are subject rather than risks and hazards having to do with and originating in the work or business of the employer.” See Drake v. Industrial Com’n of Utah, 939 P. 2d 177 (Utah 1997)(internal citations omitted).

While a rather harsh rule, Utah courts and many other jurisdictions have added a slew of exceptions to that rule. All of these exceptions come from Ahlstrom v. Salt Lake City Corp., 73 P. 3d 315 – Utah: Supreme Court 2003.

  1. The “unique circumstances” exception: this exception will apply under “unique circumstances that tip the balance from a personal trip to one that primarily benefits the [employer].” Such as a police officer who deters a crime simply by driving his quad car to work. Id at 319.
  2. The “dual purpose” exception: The Utah Supreme Court stated that “[i]f an employee’s personal conduct benefits an employer, we have implied that the employer may be held liable where the predominant purpose of the conduct was not personal.” Id. In making that determination, the Court used considered whether the trip is one which would have required the employer to send another employee over the same route or to perform the same function if the trip had not been made.
  3. The “special errand” exception: “A special errand occurs “when the employee engages in a special activity which is within the course of his employment, and which is reasonably undertaken at the request or invitation of the employer.” Id. at 320(internal citations omitted.). Here, the court looks at the frequency and relativity of other trips made.
  4. The “employer-provided transportation” exception: This rule is self-explanatory.

So in determining whether you have a compensable claim for workers’ compensation remember two things: (1) you aren’t entitled to benefits if you were just coming or going, and (2) even if you were just coming and going, a good lawyer may find a good exception for you under Utah law.

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