Date: December 2015
Although workers’ compensation injuries typically occur on the employer’s premises, sometimes an employee’s injury can be compensable when he or she is in a work capacity at another location. Workers’ compensation for injuries off site can be complicated, but case law has helped to define when injuries will and will not be covered.
An employee injured in the workplace can recover benefits under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act. This law is a no-fault benefit system that allows workers to recover without regard to negligence as long as there is a causal connection between the injury and employment.
To be compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, an injury must not only arise out of employment but also must have occurred in the course of employment. An injury is said to arise during the course of the employment when:
- the injury takes place within the period of the employment.
- the injury occurs at a place where the employee reasonably may be.
- an employee is fulfilling duties or engaged in something incidental to duties.
The Act defines a personal injury as “an injury arising out of and in the course of employment … but does not cover an employee except while engaged in, on or about the premises where the employee’s services require the employee’s presence as a part of such service at the time of the injury and during the hours of such service.” ( Minn. Stat. §176.011(16)). The “in the course of” requirement is generally not met unless the injury occurs on the premises where service to the employer is required and during the hours of this service.
However, the requirement can be met in situations where the employer’s interests are being advanced even though assigned duties are not being performed and when services are being performed at a time when wages are not being paid.
Examples Illustrate Law
Example 1: An employee was attending a two day seminar in Minneapolis. While returning to her hotel after dinner, the employee fell and broke her leg. This injury is covered under workers’ compensation even though the injury occurred after hours and off site.
This injury is compensable because the training is incidental to the work performed. Had the employee deviated from the training session itinerary, i.e., left the training early, went to a bar and square danced for hours before breaking her leg, there may be a basis to deny liability for the injury. The case law has developed in the area of “in the course of employment” to identify many exceptions.
Example 2: A social worker traveling home from a three-day conference in her own vehicle is involved in a motor vehicle accident. The employee is rear-ended by another driver and sustains back and neck injuries. This injury is covered even though the injury did not occur on the employer’s premises or in an employer vehicle. This injury is compensable because the conference is incidental to the work performed.
Example 3: An employee decides to walk to the local convenience store on a personal errand during her break. While walking down the street several blocks from the employer’s premises, the employee trips on the curb. She falls, injuring her knee. This injury is not compensable because when the injury occurred: 1) the employee was on her break; 2) she was running a personal errand; and 3) the employee was on a public street several blocks from her employer’s premises.
The employee was not in the course of her work activity at the time of the trip and fall, and her injury did not occur on her employer’s premises.
Factors for Injuries that Occur Off Site
The factors that determine compensability when employees are off site include whether they are in the course of the employee’s duties. When the job duties require ongoing education, employees may need to obtain the appropriate training off site. If an injury occurs, the employee must prove the two prongs of compensability: that the injury arose out of and in the course of employment.
The injuries presented in this article should not be confused with injuries referred to as “idiopathic” injuries. Idiopathic injuries are those that may occur in the course of employment but are personal to the employee. This means the injury could have occurred anywhere or at any time and was not caused by an increased risk presented by employment. Examples include an unexplained fall while walking on a flat surface or sudden knee pain while standing up from a seated position.