Safety and OSHA News

Worker hurt while driving company truck to his home: Can he get comp?

Usually, employees don’t get workers’ comp for injuries suffered in a vehicle crash while driving to or from work, but there are exceptions. Do any of the exceptions apply in this case? 

Francisco Ramos worked for Classic Landscaping Inc. in Pennsylvania. He usually drives his own car from home to Classic’s office where he picks up the company’s truck and materials and goes to his assigned job site(s). At the end of the work day, he drives the company truck back to Classic’s office, gets his car and drives home. Ramos isn’t paid for his travel time between home and the office.

But on Nov. 19, 2013, Ramos asked his supervisor if he could take the company truck home that day. Ramos said he would drop a co-worker off at home before returning to his own home.

After dropping off the co-worker, Ramos’ truck ran out of diesel fuel along an interstate. He got someone to bring him some fuel. A police report says when Ramos was putting fuel in the truck, he was struck by another truck. Ramos was hospitalized for three weeks and had surgery on his right leg and knee.

Ramos filed for workers’ comp. A workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) found he was on a special mission for Classic since he was taking a co-worker home in the company truck. Therefore, Ramos was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of his injuries and should receive comp benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board upheld the WCJ’s decision. The company appealed to a state court.

Was he using truck for his own convenience?

Classic argued that Ramos wasn’t in the course and scope of his employment when he was injured because he took the truck home for his own convenience and his work assignment was completed when he dropped off his co-worker. The company said Ramos wasn’t on a special mission when he was injured.

The “going and coming rule” in Pennsylvania (and many other states) says injury or death suffered by an employee traveling to or from a place of employment doesn’t occur in the course of employment and therefore isn’t compensable. However, there are exceptions, one of which is when a worker is on a “special mission” for the company.

In this case, the WCJ determined the special mission exception applied because Ramos took his co-worker home in Classic’s truck with the company’s permission.

The comp board affirmed the WCJ’s ruling, concluding that Ramos hadn’t completed his special mission at the moment he was injured because the mission included picking the co-worker up for work the next day.

The state court noted that the WCJ concluded the employer didn’t direct Ramos to take its truck home or to drop off his co-worker on the way. Rather, Ramos requested to do that. In fact, Ramos admitted that his work day ended when he clocked out after dropping off his co-worker.

So the state court reversed the comp board’s decision. The court said Ramos was not in the course and scope of his employment when he was injured. He won’t receive workers’ comp benefits for the injuries.

(Classic Landscaping Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board/Ramos, Commonwealth Court of PA, No. 25909 C.D. 2015, 8/3/16)

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