Continuous Snow Emergencies – What Does this Mean for Worker Commuter Accident?

With another snowstorm plaguing the Northeast area, parents and employees are faced with the choice of whether to try to commute to work, or stay home.  While most companies want to keep their employees safe, it is a fine line between worker safety and necessity for some companies.

Managers are then faced, for example, with the choice of closing the office and taking a hit in profits, deciding whether they want to “charge” their employees with a sick or vacation day, or deciding whether they want to mandate telecommuting.  For those employees who don’t want to risk an icy commute to work, it can be a double edged sword if a snow day is not offered (even if local governments have declared a weather emergency).  Further, some workers do not have the days to ‘borrow’ from their vacation days, and some workers cannot telecommute.

What happens then, if one is involved in a car accident or injured while trying to commute to work during a snow emergency?  Can these employees recover under workers’ compensation?

 Benefit to the Employer Required 

In order to seek workers’ compensation benefits, one must show the injury was incurred while performing a task for the benefit of the employer.  The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law requires the injury to be work-related and within the “course of [] employment.”  This leads to the tricky question of when the workday actually begins or ends.

Typically, an injury during a commute to work, or while leaving work is not covered by workers’ compensation, and the general rule of thumb is that the injury must take place inside the workplace.  The Department of Labor calls this the “coming or going rule.”   The same goes for lunch breaks.  However, there are exceptions to this rule:

  • Benefits to the Employer: A worker who is performing an act off the clock for the benefit of the employer may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Typically while driving to and from work is not considered a benefit, the lines get blurred if a worker is needed during a snow emergency.  If, for example, one is called in to open up an otherwise closed hardware store to sell de-icer during inclement weather, an argument can be made that this was for the benefit of the employer.
  • Travel: Typically travel, such as a business trip, is also not covered. However, certain instances, such as when a worker is called to deliver something to his manager who is unable to get to the office due to snow, would be covered.
  • Driving a Company Vehicle: If you are injured while driving a company vehicle, you are covered.

Who is Covered?

All employers who employ workers in Pennsylvania are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance.  It does not matter whether their employees are full-time, part-time, seasonal, or family members.  Additionally, the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law states that employers are liable for their employees’ negligence that caused injury to himself or herself.

Workers’ Compensation Attorneys in Philadelphia

If you or anyone you know has suffered a work-related accident or injury, you may be entitled to compensation. You can receive up to two-thirds of your income while you are on leave. Our experienced attorneys at Solnick & Associates LLC understand how difficult and emotional it can be to deal with the workers’ compensation process. Contact us today and let us help you navigate the process.