Husband of Killed Worker was Entitled to Worker's Compensation in Madison County, Alabama

As mention in many of my previous workers’ compensation blogs, succeeding on a workers’ compensation claim is much harder than it seems. One of the popular barriers insurance companies use to deny workers’ compensation claims is the “going and coming rule.”

This rule provides that accidents occurring while an employee is traveling on a public road to or from work generally falls outside the course of employment. Mcdaniel v. Helmerich & Payne Int’l Drilling Co., 61 So. 3d 1091 (Ala. Civ. App. 2010).

To demonstrate, assume you work at a pizza place that delivers. If you were to get injured on your way to work in a car accident, you would be denied a workers’ compensation claim under the “going and coming rule.” On the other hand, if you were injured in a car while in route to make a pizza delivery then you would not be subjected to the “going and coming rule.”

The “going and coming rule” is exemplified in aworkers’ compensation case from Madison County, Alabama, in the case of Hospice Family Care v. Allen. Here, Suzanne Allen (“the employee”) was a registered nurse that was employed by Hospice Family Care (“HFC”). The employee’s normal work hours were between 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Her daily duties included her driving to patients’ residences and providing care to them, recording voice messages at the end of each shift regarding each patient’s condition, entering billing codes, and transcribing medical information regarding each patient (“charting”).

Charting was mandatory within 24 hours of a home visit and required 2-3 hours of additional work. However, HFC provided their employees with laptops which encouraged charting to be done at any location, including employees’ homes.

On the day of the accident, the employee was on her way home from her last patient’s residence. The accident happened at 3:46 p.m., and she was pronounced dead at the scene at 4:10 p.m. At that time, she had not completed her voice recordings or her required charting.

Following the accident, the employee’s husband, Joseph Allen (“Allen”), filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants. Later, the husband amended his complaint and filed a lawsuit against HFC seeking death benefits and burial expenses pursuant to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”).

Subsequent to the workers’ compensation action, the circuit court ruled that the employee had been a “traveling employee,” that the employee was acting within the line and scope of her employment at the time of her death, and that the insurance policies that were provided by HFC were not intended to be substitute coverage for the required workers’ compensation benefits provided by HFC.

The trial court awarded Allen $6,500 in burial expenses, $51,254 (including attorney fees) in accrued benefits, and $605 per week (excluding attorney fees) in future benefits for 428 weeks. HFC appealed.

HFC argued that Allen’s claim was barred by the “going and coming rule.” However, the Court found that the employee was within her scope of her employment at the time of death. Specifically, the Court based their argument on the fact that the employee was acting in furtherance of the business affairs of HFC.

The employee had additional work to complete and HFC discouraged their employees from returning back to the offices at the end of the day. Due to the accident happening before 4:30 p.m. and it being established that it had been the employee’s habit to complete certain duties at home, the Court held that the circuit court could reasonably conclude that the employee’s workday had not ended at the time of the accident.

If you have lost a loved one through a work-related injury or illness, you may be entitled to receive death benefits through workers’ compensation and should contact a workers’ compensation attorney to assist you in making filing a claim for benefits.

If you have been injured, contact Birmingham workers’ compensation lawyer Joseph A. Ingram or Ingram Law LLC at (205) 236-3997.

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