Massachusetts Personal Injury and Exceptions to the ‘Going and Coming’ Rule — In Re Carbone’s Case

Most employees in Hyannis and Plymouth, Massachusetts go to work each day and perform their duties expecting that they will be safe, yet work related accidents do happen. When a worker is injured during the course of employment, workers’ compensation laws allow the employee to recover compensation for their injuries. Workers’ compensation benefits help lift the burdens and stress of workers who have suffered personal injury or illness at work; however, when benefits have been denied, a worker’s stress will be multiplied. Consulting with an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney can help protect a Workers’ Compensation claim.

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 152 § 26, a worker can claim workers’ compensation for injuries ‘arising out of and in the course of his employment’. Massachusetts’ courts have defined many rules to determine what actions arise out of and are in the course of employment. The ‘going and coming’ rule bars workers’ compensation claims for injuries caused during an employee’s commute to and from work.

However, there are several exceptions to the ‘going and coming’ rule. Recently In Re Carbone’s Case, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts ruled on whether an employee had an exception to the going and coming rule. An employee was allowed to drive an employer’s work truck between home and work. During one morning commute, a deer entered the roadway causing the employee to swerve into a guardrail and suffer injury. The employer had allowed this use of the truck in order to keep the truck in use throughout the year so that it would be in good condition during the winter to plow snow.

The administrative judge dismissed the employee’s workers’ compensation claim based upon the going and coming rule. The judge determined that, since both the employer and the employee benefited from the use of the truck, an exception did not apply. However, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts disagreed, noting the common thread under all the exceptions was that (1) an employer authorized the activity, and (2) the employer benefited from the activity. Only when the employee is acting purely in his own interest does an exception not apply. The court overturned the dismissal since the employer benefited from having his truck in working condition throughout the year.

As the appellate court in In Re Carbone’s Case noted, there are several exceptions to the going and coming rule. Below, we have listed several of these exceptions that allow a workers’ compensation claim even when the employee is commuting:

Special Errand Exception:
A workers’ compensation claim will not be barred by the going and coming rule when the employ was engaged in a special errand. An example would be an employer that requires that an employee attend a business meeting on the way home from work.

Incidental Benefit Exception
Another exception to the going and coming rule is found in situations where an employer pays for trips not made by ordinary members of the workforce that create an incidental benefit for the employer. An example would be where an employer pays a nurse to travel between home and a work site, allowing the employer to extend his or her market reach.

Extraordinary Demands Exception
An employer may also be liable for workers’ compensation when the employer’s extraordinary demand causes an accident. The most common case of this exception happens when the employer demands that the employee work such long hours that the employee falls asleep on the way home. Whether the employer created an extraordinary demand is a very objective analysis, and the court will not consider the employee’s subjective belief that he or she might be fired for not following through with the demand.

When a worker has been injured from circumstances arising out of and in the course of his or her employment, he or she will have to deal with stress of healing, medical bills, and lost wages. An employer has an interest in trying to deny a claim. During such trying circumstances, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve.

Local attorney, John C. Manoog III, has extensive experience handling Workers’ Compensation claims. For a free initial consultation, call the office at 888-262-6664 or reach us by email. There is always someone available to talk to you about your case.

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