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What is the commercial traveler rule in workers’ compensation?

On Behalf of | Jan 1, 2024 | Workers' Compensation |

Typically, people can’t receive workers’ compensation benefits for injuries they suffer while commuting to and from work. This is often called the “going and coming” rule. 

The commercial traveler rule, on the other hand, lets employees receive workers comp benefits if they’re injured while traveling as part of their job – specifically if the travel was “arising out of their employment” (AOE) or during the “course of their employment” (COE). That might sound simple enough, but many cases aren’t so clear-cut. Employers and their insurers may fight an employee’s workers’ comp claim.

Why one workers’ compensation denial was overruled

One such case made its way to a California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board panel last year. The employer was a catering business that was preparing and serving meals to firefighters and forestry workers stationed in remote areas over a period of months. An employee for the company who was required to commute between his home and the various sites during this time was injured in a car crash.

His workers’ comp claim was denied because the employer and their insurer pointed out that he wasn’t working at the time of the crash. Therefore, they claimed, the commercial traveler rule didn’t apply. A workers’ compensation administrative law judge supported the claim denial. The employee asked the Appeals Board for a reconsideration.

The panel overruled the denial and allowed the employee to collect workers’ comp benefits. They determined that because he was required to work in such remote areas, even his travel during his free time fell within the scope of his employment, and the commercial traveler rule applied.

While this might seem like an unusual case, there are a lot of workers’ comp claims that can fall into a gray area of the law. You don’t have to accept a denial without question if you believe it’s wrong. You have recourse. Getting legal guidance is a good first step.

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