People who are involved in auto accidents while they are driving for work may, in addition to any compensation from the at-fault driver, be entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits.

While workers’ compensation may only cover a portion of an injured employee’s lost wages (and nothing for pain and suffering), a third-party’s liability insurance can cover all a worker’s lost wages, as well as an amount for pain and suffering.

However, if an employee receives workers’ compensation and later obtains a judgment from that third party, he or she may need to reimburse workers’ compensation for a portion of that (so they are not doubly paid). But the good news is even if a working driver is at-fault and not eligible to collect liability insurance from the other driver, he or she will still be able to collect workers’ compensation. dirtroad1

In cases where that worker dies as a result of the crash, his or her family will be eligible to collect workers’ compensation death benefits.

In the recent case of Hamilton v. Alpha Services, LLC, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed a grant of workers’ compensation death benefits to the family of a man killed in a crash while working for a logging company.

According to court records, decedent was hired by a logging operation in Wyoming, and had to move from Idaho to be closer to work. He rented a house a mile north of the road that led to the logging site. The company provided him with an advance to secure housing. His wife and two children stayed behind.

Three months later, after working an early shift, he drove the company vehicle to purchase groceries. This was a violation of company policy, a fact that was undisputed. He then called his wife around 2:24 p.m., telling her he had to return to the job site and expressing frustration over this fact.

Minutes after that conversation, decedent was involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident with a semi-trailer truck. Highway patrol report indicates as decedent attempted a left turn onto the dirt road leading to the logging site, he was broadsided by a southbound semi-truck that had moved into the left lane in an attempt to pass.

Decedent was pronounced dead at the scene.

His wife later filed a claim for workers’ compensation. The company and its insurer denied the claim, stating worker had not been acting in the course and scope of employment.

A hearing was held, wherein the hearing officer decided more likely than not, the crash arose in and out of the course of worker’s employment. The hearing officer awarded worker’s widow and children burial expenses and income benefits.

Defendant company sought reconsideration, which the commission denied. Defendant and insurer then appealed, arguing that, at best, worker was on his way to work but hadn’t yet arrived.

A worker is deemed to be acting in the course of employment during an accident if it takes place while the worker is doing the duty which he is employed to perform.

Defendants argued there was no evidence worker was turning onto that road for a work-related purpose.

But there was evidence to suggest he was returning to the site in order to ensure a co-worker with whom he was sharing the logging truck had access to it if it was needed, per their earlier agreement.

For this reason, the court found he was more than likely acting in the course and scope of employment. State supreme court affirmed.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Hamilton v. Alpha Services, LLC, June 22, 2015, Idaho Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Dakter v. Cavallino – $1.1M Truck Accident Verdict Affirmed, July 19, 2015, Florida Accident Attorney Blog