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Massachusetts Appeals Court Agrees With Industrial Accident Reviewing Board That Car Accident Was Not in the Course of Employment

In order to receive Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related injury or death, the person filing the claim must be able to show that the accident that led to the injury or death occurred during the course of the worker’s job duties. Usually, this is an easily resolved issue, but sometimes the particular circumstances of an accident can result in substantial disagreement between the parties as to whether the employee was truly acting in the course of his or her employment.

If the worker’s compensation insurance company denies the claim, the matter will likely proceed to a determination by an administrative law judge; this decision may be further appealed, should either side wish to seek review. If you or someone you know is considering filing a claim for a workplace injury or death, now is the time to speak with a Cape Cod workers’ compensation attorney.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed from the Industrial Accident Reviewing Board, the widow of a man who was killed in an automobile accident sought workers’ compensation benefits on the basis that the decedent (who was the principal of a family-owned business) was killed during the course of business. The defendant insurance company denied the claim. A three-day hearing was held before an administrative law judge. The judge denied the widow’s claim, concluding that the trip during which the decedent was killed was not an undertaking that was in the course of the insured company’s business. The Department of Industrial Accidents’ reviewing board summarily adopted the ALJ’s decision. The widow sought further review.

The Decision of the Court

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the board. The appellate court began by reviewing the background of the decedent’s family business, which was formed to own and operate an import and export business. More specifically, the court noted that the company served as a “manufacturer’s representative” that imported chemicals from a foreign country for sale to certain domestic companies. Although the decedent was not the only employee of the company, he was “solely responsible” for running the business and “called all the shots.” The court further observed that neither the 2005 application for workers’ compensation insurance nor any subsequent renewal documents indicated that there would be in any out-of-state travel or that the company was involved in any business other than the import-export trade.

At the time of his death, the decedent was on his way to another state to meet a real estate broker and a potential buyer for a restaurant that was owned by a limited liability corporation that the decedent had formed and incorporated in the other state where the restaurant was located. In reviewing the overall facts of the case, the court of appeals found that the ALJ’s finding that the decedent was traveling out of state in order to serve his personal interests – not those of the defendant’s insured (the import-export business) – were amply supported by the record. The fact that the insured largely funded the restaurant venture, while a factor to be considered, was not conclusive evidence that the decedent was acting in the course of the insured’s business at the time of the car accident in which he lost his life.

Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

There can be may challenges involved in making a claim for workers’ compensation following a work-related injury or a loved one’s death while on the job. To schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable Cape Cod workers’ compensation attorney, please call The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, today at 888-262-6664.