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Employee Traveling to Out-of-State Job Site Not Entitled to Georgia Workers’ Compensation Benefits

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2017 | Georgia Workers' Compensation, Workers' Compensation Case Law |

In a recent decision, a Georgia appeals court considered whether an employee who was injured while traveling from Georgia to Alabama for work was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The employee worked for a company repairing railroad tracks in different states. On one Sunday afternoon, the employee left his house in Georgia and drove toward Alabama, where he was supposed to begin work on a railroad track on the following morning. On his way to the motel, the employee was injured in a car accident. The employee filed for Georgia workers’ compensation benefits, claiming he was temporarily disabled. Yet the company argued that the accident did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.

What It Means to Arise Out of and in the Course of Employment

Under O.C.G.A. 34-9-1(4) of Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, in order to be eligible for benefits, an injured employee must prove that their injury was related to their job. Specifically, an employee must show that the accidental injury arose out of and in the course of his or her employment. The requirement that the injury arises out of the employment means that there has to be a causal connection between the employee’s job and the injury. The requirement that the injury occurs in the course of employment considers the time, place, and circumstances of the injury.

Generally, injuries that occur when an employee is commuting to and from work do not arise out of and in the course of employment because courts believe that most jobs require some form of commute, which is not necessarily related to the functions of the job. In this case, the employee was traveling to a motel near the job site when the injury occurred. Accordingly, the court found the employee’s injury was not compensable.


The Continuous Employment Doctrine

The employee also argued that he was entitled to benefits under the “continuous employment doctrine.” Under the continuous employment doctrine (also known as the traveling employee doctrine), an employee may be entitled to benefits if the employee is required to stay within a geographic area to be available for work on a job site. This type of employee is essentially continuously employed while away from home, so any injury occurring while traveling from the temporary residence to the job site may be covered.

Here, the employee was required to stay and work in Alabama during the week to work at a job site. If the employee had already arrived and begun his work for the week when he was injured, he would likely have been covered under the continuous employment doctrine. However, since he was coming from his home in Georgia, and he had not yet begun the work week, he was not performing work duties. Essentially, the court considered the employee’s trip to Alabama as his “commute.” Thus, the court determined that he was off-duty, and he was not continuously employed, so his injuries were not compensable under the continuous employment doctrine. Since the court found the injuries did not arise out of or in the course of his employment, the employee was not entitled to disability benefits.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Georgia

If you have been injured on the job or in an accident related to your work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. has decades of experience successfully handling workers’ compensation claims. Our firm provides friendly, approachable attorneys who take the time to talk to our clients about their concerns. We offer quality legal representation and responsive client service. For a free consultation, call us at 404-920-4708 or contact us through our online form.