In Georgia, courts have established that an employee injury that occurs while the worker was going to or coming from his or her place of work is not considered to have happened “in the course of employment.” Therefore, the worker wouldn’t be entitled to worker’s compensation.
However, Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers know that this is a general rule, and there are lots of possible exceptions. As every case is different, it’s important not to assume that you don’t have a legitimate claim before first consulting with an attorney.
One recent case reviewed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court reveals the complexity of many of these cases. Graham Public Schools v. Priddy, stems from an injury incurred by a school employee who tripped and fell over a rug as she rushed out the door to attend to a family emergency.
The case resulted in conflicting opinions. The Workers’ Compensation Court (the entity that handles such claims in that state) found that the injury was compensable. However on appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals held that because the worker was on a personal mission, the injury wasn’t compensable.
In that state, worker injuries that occur on the job site are governed by the tenants established in the 1997 ruling of Corbett v. Express Personnel, which found that injuries suffered by an employer on sites controlled by that employer are compensable if:
- The claimant’s employment had a connection to the causative risk countered;
- The precipitating risk of harm was created or maintained by the employer.
Although the Corbett case indicated that workers’ compensation benefits couldn’t be awarded to an employee who was injured after leaving work early on a personal mission, the court noted the distinction between that case and the one before it currently. Namely, the worker in the Corbett case was injured on his motorcycle in his employer’s parking lot. The worker had created the risk or contributed to it. There, the injury was neither job-related and the hazard hadn’t been created by the employer.
That wasn’t true here. The court also harkened back to another earlier ruling that indicated the definition of “employment” began at the moment the worker arrived at the place of work and terminated as soon as he or she left. Injuries incurred in areas controlled by the employer, the court found, would be compensable. Further, entering and leaving the building in which she worked would be considered an essential work function. The area where the hazard existed was also under the control of the employer.
The school district never denied it had placed the rug outside the door. It never contested her right to use that door in order to leave and it never fought her claim that the rug was slippery.
Because the evidence was undisputed, the court rendered a judgment in favor of the employee, finding that even though she was leaving work early to tend to a personal matter, the injury still arose out of the course of her employment.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.