Like many small business owners, you’re probably familiar with how workers’ compensation insurance can help protect your employees and your business in the event of a workplace injury. But what about when your valued team members are on the road? What if they’re commuting? Are they covered by workers’ comp while traveling to and from work, when visiting different job sites, or while driving to a conference? If you ask an employee to run an errand, or pick up supplies on the way to work, or on their way home at the end of the work day, will they be covered if they’re in an accident?
We’re here to help with answers to your questions about workers’ compensation coverage and commuting. It’s important to remember, however, that each state has its own workers’ compensation laws and there are exceptions to each of the scenarios below. Check the laws in your state, reach out to your workers’ compensation representative, and/or consult a trusted expert if you have specific questions. To begin, here’s information about the Going and Coming Rule along with the basics of what’s covered and what’s not regarding workers’ comp and commutes.
The Going and Coming Rule
Most states have adopted the Going and Coming Rule (alternatively referred to as the Coming and Going Rule) in some form. This rule establishes guidelines around workers’ compensation coverage when employees are going to or coming from work. The rule holds that traveling to or from work is generally not covered by workers’ compensation (although there are exceptions) because the employee is responsible for their own actions during the commute.
The rationale behind this argument is that while performing work-related duties, the employer is generally responsible for the employee’s safety. However, when off-site and engaged in personal tasks, the employee is generally responsible for their own actions. Again, in both cases, there are exceptions. The employer is not considered to be benefitting from routine work commutes, and workers generally aren’t on the payroll when they’re commuting, so accidents that occur en route to or from work typically aren’t covered.
As you can imagine, there are various scenarios (and legal cases) around when an employee is or is not considered to be working while traveling, so our “what’s covered” and “what’s not” sections below merely serve to provide a general idea.
Traveling between job sites.
If your employee’s responsibilities involve traveling to meet with a client, work on a job site, deliver goods, etc., they would generally be covered if injured on the road between stops. They could also be covered if they drive from their home directly to their first site. For example, if one of your team members is a landscaper who is injured in a traffic accident on the way from one property to another, or to their first property of the day directly from home, the injury would likely be compensable.
Traveling on a business trip.
If your employees are traveling for purposes related to work, they may be covered by your workers’ compensation insurance. For example, if your employee is an accountant headed to another state to meet with a client and they are injured while traveling, they will generally be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Running a work errand.
If you ask an employee to run a special errand (also called a special mission in some states) on the way to, from, or during work, they may be covered. For example, if a worker has an accident while picking up items from a print shop at your request on the way into work, they’ll likely be covered for the injury.
Traveling in a business vehicle.
If your employee drives a vehicle owned by your company and sustains an injury, they will likely be covered if the vehicle was being used for work-related purposes. For example, a construction site manager who is injured on the way to a job site in your company truck would likely be covered.
What’s not covered?
Commuting to and from work.
If your employees are traveling to work on their own time (and they are not on the clock and being paid for their travel to and from work), they will not be covered should an injury occur en route. For example, a home health aide who first reports to your office before traveling to see patients would not be covered by your workers’ compensation insurance policy if they are injured while driving to work.
Personal activities during business travel.
If an employee is on a business trip but sustains an injury during their downtime, they may not be covered by workers’ compensation. For example, if you have paid for your employee, a computer programmer, to attend an IT conference, and they are injured while driving home from a night out on the town, they may not be covered by your company’s workers’ compensation policy.
Commuting accidents resulting from work-related causes.
If an employee is headed home from work and is injured as a result of a work-related factor, they may be covered by your workers’ compensation policy. For example, if you serve alcohol at a company holiday party, and an employee who was drinking causes an accident, workers’ comp may cover resulting injuries.
Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As laws change regularly, you should refer to your state legislation and/or an advisor for specific legal counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workers’ compensation insurance or check your current rate in 3 minutes.