How An Injured Worker’s Off the Job Accident Was Compensable by Workers’ Compensation

When we think of workers’ compensation claims, we commonly think of accidents that happen at the work location during a normal work hours.  Recently, however, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court addressed the issue of an accident that happened outside the workplace after a worker’s shift had ended.   

In that case, a laborer had signed out at the end of his shift.   While on a public sidewalk approximately 160 yards from where he clocked out, the claimant walked into a raised piece of concrete while trying to avoid a group of people coming from the opposite direction.  The Law Judge who heard the testimony and reviewed pictures of the scene determined that the accident was work related.  On appeal, the Board Panel determined that the accident was not compensable.  The claimant appealed the decision, and the Appellate Division affirmed the Board Panel decision disallowing the claim. 

In disallowing the claim, the Court noted that normally accidents that happen outside of work hours and in public areas away from the workplace are not compensable, however, there are exceptions.   

The general exception is that a “gray area” develops the closer the accident occurs to the work premises.  In this “gray area”, the risks of normal street travel merge with the risks of employment.  In these situations, the Board will review the facts of each case to determine if there was a special hazard related to the employment.  The cause of the accident (for example a raised piece of concrete or a pothole) must be a special hazard related to the job.  There must be a connection between the cause of the accident and the job.   

In this case, the Court noted that there was not a special hazard related to the job.  There was simply a raised piece of concrete that was a hazard to the public.  The accident happened 160 yards away from where the claimant had clocked out and the route was not chosen or recommended by the employer and served no business purpose.   

As a result of this case and others similar to it, everyone should be aware of the following: (1) accidents that happen off the premises during non-work hours may be compensable, however, the outcome depends on the specific set of facts (2) an accident that happens off the premises during non-work hours will be compensable if there is a sufficient connection between the accident and job and (3) only by filing a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board, will an injured worker know if an accident comes under the Workers’ Compensation Law.   

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