What Do You Think: May Employee who Went from work to PT to Car Crash Collect WC Benefits?

                               

Allentown, PA (WorkersCompensation.com) –- In Pennsylvania, an employee who is injured on his way to receive medical treatment for a work-related injury may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  

But what if the employee is not on his way to treatment, but has just left treatment and, although still being paid, is on his way home? A court addressed that question in a case involving an employee for a food and facilities management company who was in a terrible car accident after, ironically, leaving a physical therapy appointment.

The employee initially suffered a work-related injury to his right elbow in August 2019 while working for the company at West Chester University. The employee required physical therapy for the injury.

The company reached an agreement with the employee whereby he could start work earlier in the day at 5:00 a.m., work some hours, and then leave for his therapy appointment.  After therapy, he would be free to do as he pleased for the rest of the workday until his supervisor clocked him out. Since the therapy facility was close to his home, and the employee would have little remaining work time if he went back to the University, the company agreed that he didn’t need to return to work after treatment. But he would be paid until he was clocked out and would be paid for a full work day. 

One day, the employee went to therapy as usual, and left for home, after picking up up his dog. On the way home, he was in a car accident and suffered extensive injuries.

A WCJ denied him workers’ compensation benefits for those injuries, reasoning that he was not injured during the course of employment.

The employee appealed.

The court explained that a claimant's injury suffered while driving to an appointment necessary for treatment as a result of a work-related injury is work-related, and thus in the course of his employment. Berro v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Bd., 645 A.2d 342 (Pa. Comm’w Ct. 1994).

Did the accident occur in the course and scope of employment?

A. No. After leaving therapy, the employee had no remaining obligations to the company for the day.

B. Yes. When the accident occurred, he was still on the clock and being paid, technically speaking.

If you chose A, you sided with the court in Blackmon v. Sedexo Global Servs., No. C.D. 2022 (PA Comm’w Ct. 12/07/22), which held that the accident did not occur in the course and scope of employment.

The court pointed out that this was not a case where the employee was on his way to therapy to treat a work-related injury. “[H]e had finished his physical therapy appointment and, although being paid, was left to his own devices to do as he pleased,” the court wrote.

While it was true that the employer was continued to pay him, it did so merely as a courtesy, the court reasoned, because it would have been pointless for the employee to return to work for such a trivial period of time.

“Claimant's workday was, for all intents and purposes, finished for the day, as he had concluded any activities that could be considered furthering the employer’s business,” the court wrote.

The court affirmed the WCJ’s decision denying the employee benefits. 

This feature does not provide legal advice.

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