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What is North Carolina's "going and coming" rule? What are the exceptions?

raleigh workers comp lawyerA common question our Raleigh workers' comp lawyers are asked involves injuries from an accident while traveling to and from work. The general rule in that situation is that there is no payment to the injured worker if he or she is injured while traveling to work, or traveling home from work. However, there are many exceptions.

One exception is known as the premises exception to the going and coming rule, which holds that injuries arising on the premises of the employer, such as a parking lot, would be payable even though the worker was injured while going to work and had not arrived at his usual work station.

Another exception is the traveling salesperson exception, which covers workers who are required to travel from place to place as, for instance, a route salesperson. In those cases, the traveling worker can recover even though they are on the first leg of their trip, traveling to their first appointment, or on the last leg traveling home from their last appointment.

The special errand exception provides that an injury is in the course of the employment if it occurs while the employee is engaged in a special duty or a special errand away from the usual job site. An example is that of a worker who was required, as a condition of employment, to attend a four-week training seminar which was not offered at his regular place of employment. When the worker was injured while traveling to this training seminar, the court held that the injury arose within the course of employment, and the worker collected for their injuries.

Where a worker was injured on his way to work while crossing the street to purchase supplies for the school where he worked at the specific request of the principal, it was held that the worker was on a special errand for his employer and the injuries sustained while crossing the street were payable.

Injuries arising out of the necessity of sleeping in hotels or eating in restaurants away from home are usually held to be payable. When a traveling worker slips in the street or is struck by an automobile between his hotel and a restaurant, the injury has been held to be payable even though the accident occurred on a Sunday evening and involved an extended trip occasioned by the employee’s wish to eat at a particular restaurant. In general, if the employer creates the necessity for travel, that travel is considered to be in the course of his employment even though the employee is serving at the same time some purpose of his own. However, injuries received while on a trip being made primarily for personal or social reasons and not in performance of his duty for the employer, is not payable, even if the employer is also benefited from the trip. An example of this rule arose in a case involving a worker who was killed when he went with another to visit the other person’s girlfriend, and while on the visit stopped to get supplies for his employer. That accident was held not to be within the course of his employment, and therefore, there was no recovery for the death which occurred to the employee.

The employer may be held liable for an injury suffered by an employee when going to or from work when the employer furnishes the means of transportation as a part of the contract of employment. An injury suffered by an employee while going to or from work is considered to have arisen out of and in the course of his employment when the employee, under the terms of the employment, and as an incident of the contract, is paid an allowance to cover the cost of such transportation. This rule applies even when the employee is traveling to and from lunch on a vehicle furnished by the employer. IF you drive a company vehicle and were injured in an accident, check with our Raleigh workers' comp lawyers to make certain your case falls under one of these exceptions.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently created another exception to the "going and coming rule" when it held that if the employer required the employee to provide the means for transportation to use while at work, the employer is liable to pay workers’ compensation benefits to that worker if they are injured while traveling to or from work. This exception would arise, for instance, if a worker was required to drive his car while at work. If the employee is in an accident while driving this car to work, he would be able to claim workers’ compensation benefits for injuries sustained in the accident even though he had not yet arrived at his job site when the accident happened.