In most car accidents, injured persons or survivors of those deceased may seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company or, in some cases, their own through uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

wreckedcar1-300x225But in cases where the person injured or killed was performing a work-related function, there may also be an option for workers’ compensation coverage.

Claimants must be careful in seeking these benefits because there is a possibility these benefits/damage awards could offset one another.

Because the system of subrogation is often complicated, it’s imperative for interested parties to seek counsel from an experienced Fort Myers traffic accident attorney. Knowing how one claim could affect another may govern the type of benefits you pursue, and when.

In the case of Seabright Ins. Co. v. Lopez, the question before the Texas Supreme Court was whether the widow of a deceased driver was entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits through his employer. The man died in a crash while on his way to a remote job site, and was carpooling with several other workers.

According to court records, worker was employed by an oil and gas processing company in Texas. The job routinely required him to work at remote locations, often hundreds of miles from his home. While at these sites, the company paid for his lodging and food, and provided him with a vehicle and money for gas to get to-and-from his hotels to the work sites.

Other workers for the company were often in the same situation, and they often carpooled with the person provided the company vehicle. There was no express policy on this, but it was common practice. Workers were not paid for their travel time.

One morning in September 2007, worker was driving himself and two other workers from the hotel to a job site when he was involved in an auto accident. He died as a result of his injuries.

His widow sought death benefits from the company’s workers’ compensation insurance, but the insurer denied coverage, arguing the worker was not acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash.

This question is often a complex one, and each state handles the answer differently. Generally, though, workers who are traveling to and from work are not considered to be acting in the course and scope of employment, however, particularly if they aren’t paid for their travel time and the company does not benefit from this time they are in transit.

At a contested hearing in the case, a hearing officer determined worker was acting in the course and scope of employment (and was therefore covered by workers’ compensation insurance) because his work involved travel away from the company’s property and he was engaged in or furthering the affairs of the company when he was traveling.

Insurer challenged these findings, and trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the widow. Insurer appealed, and the appellate court affirmed.

Insurer then appealed to the state supreme court. This court too affirmed, noting worker was commuting from his employer-provided housing to a job site in an employer-provided vehicle in an area he would not have been in were it not for his employment with the company.

Thus, benefits were granted.

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

Additional Resources:

Seabright Ins. Co. v. Lopez, June 12, 2015, Texas Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Rodriguez v. United Sch. Dist. No. 500 – Student Athlete Crash Covered, June 28, 2015, Fort Myers Car Accident Attorney Blog