We have learned a lot about ourselves and our country in this pandemic. With regard to work, we learned one big lesson – there are many jobs (possibly your own) that you can do from the comfort of your own home.
You might think, then, that workers’ compensation claims decreased markedly while many people were telecommuting during the pandemic. Well, that may not actually be the case. Even prior to the pandemic, there has been litigation in Florida, and throughout the country, in which employees filed workers’ compensation claims based on injuries that occurred at home.
Accordingly, this article will delve into the fascinating subject of whether people working from home can still claim workers’ compensation benefits due to an injury associated with their work.
If, after reading this article, you have more questions about your own circumstances, then the Jacksonville workers’ compensation lawyers at RITE Law are here to help. At RITE Law, we have a group of Jacksonville workers’ compensation lawyers who have your best interests at heart, and who have the training and resources to make sure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. We provide a free case evaluation, so call today.
Workers’ Compensation Legal Standard
At first blush, you might assume an “at-work” accident is not possible when someone is working from home. That is actually not the case.
The operative standard to determine whether a person suffered an injury that is compensable under workers’ compensation insurance is to analyze whether the accident occurred within the “course and scope of employment.”
Thus, what is most important with regard to a workers’ compensation claim – in terms of the fundamental question as to whether workers’ compensation insurance is even applicable – is to have evidence that the worker was engaging in activity at the time of the injury that was in the interest of the employer.
If a computer screen breaks and injures you while you are doing work for your boss, does that fall under the “course and scope of employment” standard? Probably.
Yet, if you trip and fall when you go to your kitchen to get coffee while you are working, does that qualify? It depends. It is not as clear of a case as a faulty computer screen, but it is a fact-sensitive inquiry.
Let’s take a look at a real-world cases to learn more about that coffee scenario.
Workers’ Comp When Tripping Over the Dog?
In the 2016 case of Sedgwick CMS v. Valcourt-Williams out of Florida, the claimant was working from home. She went to her kitchen during work hours, reached for a coffee cup, and accidentally tripped over her dog. She filed for workers’ compensation.
At the administrative hearing level, the judge found that workers’ compensation benefits should apply. The judge reasoned that because the employee was taking advantage of personal comfort during work hours (similar to going to the break room at work) and was injured, she should be allowed to collect workers’ comp. Because people who are injured in a break room could still claim workers’ comp benefits, then the Sedgwick employee should be able to do the same.
On appeal, the Florida court viewed the issue through a different prism. The Florida court agreed that it did not matter whether the employee was at home or in the office at the time of the accident. Rather, the important question was whether the accident was due to a condition created by the employer that substantially contributed to the accident.
Based on that standard, the Florida court ruled against workers’ comp benefits for the employee. They determined that the risk of whether the employee would trip over her dog existed regardless of whether the employee was working or not. In other words, the employer had no control over the remote employee’s environment. Thus, because the risk of tripping over the dog existed despite whether the employee was working or not, the court held that workers’ comp benefits were not available to the employee.
As you can see, the question of what an “at-work” accident is can be a complex question. It is highly likely, though, that there will be more telecommuting workers’ compensation claims, given that we have all become accustomed to working from home because of the pandemic.
To Learn More About Options When Working from Home, Call the Jacksonville Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at RITE Law
At RITE Law, we started the firm for one reason – to help those in Florida and elsewhere have the resources of a firm that was “big enough to fight but small enough to care.” At Rudolph, Israel, Tucker & Ellis (RITE law), we have the resources and experience to go to trial when it is necessary, and we have the wisdom to advise you appropriately.
Expect lots of attention, passionate representation, and a healthy disdain for big insurance companies. We believe that leads to the best result possible. Unlike larger firms, your case isn’t handed to a paralegal or assistant to do the heavy lifting. The attorney you meet initially is the one who will be by your side every step of the way.
We also take pride in creating an atmosphere where every client is treated like family. Family members stick up for one another no matter what. You should expect nothing less from the RITE Law workers’ compensation attorneys in Jacksonville.
Without help from the RITE team, making your own personal injury claims can be very difficult. When you turn to our firm, we spring into action, making sure that every detail of your claim is addressed. Call us for help. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. We provide a free case evaluation, so feel free to call us today.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not decide whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed, nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.