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Business Insurance magazine recently observed that workers in all states who are injured while commuting to or from their jobs are normally not entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits under what is referred to as the “coming and going rule.” The Insurance Journal finds that the logic for this rule is that, although the employee may be traveling to or from work when an injury is sustained, the employee is not actually furthering the employer’s business interests while on the road. Therefore, any injury sustained is not an employment-related injury entitling the employee to Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Exceptions do exist to the coming-and-going rule. Under Pennsylvania law, the four exceptions to the coming-and-going rule are: (1) the contract of employment provides for transportation to and from work; (2) the employee has no particular place of work; (3) the employer has given the employee a “special mission”; or (4) special circumstances exist that the employee was promoting the employer’s business.

In a recently rendered decision, Simko v. WCAB, a Pennsylvania court had occasion to determine if one or more exceptions to the coming-and-going rule applied.

The Simko decision

In Simko, the employee filed a claim alleging that he suffered a brain injury during his employment with U.S. Steel/Edger Thomson Works. At the time the injury was sustained, the employee was commuting to the employer’s premises for a safety meeting. The Workers’ Compensation judge issued a decision granting the employee Workers’ Compensation benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board disagreed and found that the WCJ erred in finding that the employee was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the injury. The employee appealed from the WCAB decision.

The employee urged that he came within two exceptions to the coming-and-going rule. First, he argued that he was on a “special mission” for his employer at the time of the injury since the meeting was a safety meeting. The court initially reiterated that, as a general rule, an injury received by an employee while traveling to or from work is not compensable. Continuing, the court found that, under Pennsylvania law, even though meeting attendance is part of an employee’s work duties, traveling to or from those meetings is usually not a special mission. As to the specific matter before it, the court decided that commuting to the scheduled monthly safety meeting was not a special mission. This was true, said the court, even though the monthly meeting in question also encompassed components of an even “more compulsory” meeting known as a “stand-down safety meeting.”

The employee also argued that the “special circumstances” exception applied since he was commuting to work early for what amounted to a stand-down safety meeting which furthered the employer’s safety goals. The court again disagreed. Although attendance at the meetings furthered the employer’s safety goals, it was still part of the employee’s regular work duties and the employee would be paid his regular hourly wage during the meeting although he needed to arrive at work early. Consequently, the special circumstances exception did not apply.

Seeking compensation

Exceptions exist to the coming-and-going rule. If you have been injured while traveling during the course and scope of your employment, you should contact a Pennsylvania attorney experienced in handling Workers’ Compensation claims. A Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Gross will be happy to investigate the situation and advise you whether you may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Contact us online or call 215-512-1500.