Most employees in New Jersey have a regular commute to work. For some individuals this means hopping on the bus or even taking the train into New York, but the majority of New Jersey employees are driving to their jobs. In fact, across the United States over 85% of workers who commute go by automobile.
All of this rush hour traffic leads to multiple accidents on New Jersey roadways every day, and unsurprisingly, these accidents frequently result in injuries to employees who are going or coming from their workplace. The question often asked of a New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyer is whether injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident going or coming from work qualify for workers’ compensation benefits?
What Does the Statute Say?
Essential to determining whether an injured commuter is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits is a section of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Section 34:15-7 states that workers’ compensation covers accidents, “arising out of and in the course of employment.”
The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act goes on to clarify that employment begins when an individual arrives at the employer’s place of business and ends when the employee departs from the workplace. This statement seems to explicitly eliminate the drives to and from work as under workers’ compensation, but the act and New Jersey courts have provided some clarification and exceptions.
How Have New Jersey Courts Interpreted the Workers’ Compensation Act?
In 2014 the New Jersey Supreme Court, in the case Hersh v. County of Morris decided that an individual who was injured while walking from her car to the office was not entitled to workers’ compensation. The important factors were that the employee parked in a lot not owned or controlled by the employer and she walked on public streets and sidewalks that did not subject the employee to any special hazard and were clearly beyond the employer’s control.
Consistent with earlier cases that strictly determined when an employee arrived at work under the going and coming rule, the employee did not begin work-related activity or the workday until reaching the employer’s property.
Refining the Going and Coming Rule for Certain Workers
Both the Workers’ Compensation Act and New Jersey courts recognize that certain workers do not have a normal commute to an employer’s place of business. The statute tried to address this by carving out an exception for employees who are paid for their time spent driving, but this still left some ambiguity for salaried employees such as sales representatives, delivery people, and business professionals taking meetings.
These special circumstances have led to two exceptions to the going and coming rule. The first is as stated earlier, and applies to those hourly or other employees who are specifically compensated for their time spent driving or use a company owned vehicle in their job duties. Known as the travel time exception, it has been applied to medical sales employees, UPS delivery people, and workers in similar roles.
The second exception is for a special mission. These are injuries that happen off the employer’s property or controlled premises, but the injury occurred when the employee was required to be off-site by the employer, was in direct performance of his or her job duties, or the activity was “sufficiently substantial” to be viewed arising from the course of employment. This could be a law clerk sent to the courthouse or an in-home caregiver en route to the grocery store with a client.
Talk with an Attorney
If you sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident that you think might fall within workers’ compensation, and want to speak with a New Jersey lawyer qualified in this area of law call Albert J. Talone, Esq. The Law Office of Albert J. Talone can always be reached at (856)-234-4023.
The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from The Law Office of Albert J. Talone or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.