The coming-and-going rule in California workers' compensation law may seem simple. The basic principle is that if you are coming from or going to work, any injuries you sustain aren't covered by workers' compensation benefits because your actions did not occur in the course and scope of employment.
However, there are several exceptions to this rule, and with the help of an experienced San Diego workers' compensation attorney, we may be able to help secure benefits for you, even if you were in the process of commuting.
While there is no "coming-and-going rule" statute in the labor code, it's a concept that has developed over time in case law. That means we must look back to the precedent established by the courts to determine our chances of success in any given case.
When Work Injuries Are Covered
In general, there are two requirements for covering work-related injuries. Those are:
- Injury arose out of employment;
- Injury occurred in the course of employment.
Usually in the course of a routine commute, the second prong of this test isn't met because the employer doesn't benefit and the employee isn't directly providing a service. However, in cases where the employee is providing a service and employer is benefiting from the commute, there may be an exception.
The Hinojosa Case
One of the cases that shaped the exceptions to the coming-and-going rule in California workers' compensation law is Hinojosa v. WCAB, a case decided in 1972. The Supreme Court of California carved the "required vehicle exceptions," which essentially states that if an employee provides their own transportation to work as a condition of employment, in turn any injuries that happen during the commute will be compensable.
The plaintiff in that matter was a farm worker paid on an hourly basis, including the time he drove from ranch-to-ranch on any given day. He was required to secure his own transportation, and often made travel arrangements with co-workers in order to be in compliance. One day while on his way home in a co-worker's vehicle, they were involved in a crash and the plaintiff was injured.
When the plaintiff sought workers' compensation benefits, his employer denied them, citing the coming-and-going rule. The case worked its way up to the state Supreme Court, where the Court ruled the worker was not engaged in a routine commute at the time of the crash. This was a situation where the job is structured and dependent upon transportation by the workers as an employment pre-requisite.
This is not the only exception. Others include:
- Personal comfort exception. This was outlined in the 2015 case of Bloxham v. Lithia Ford, wherein an employee injured in a serious crash was granted benefits while on a break where he stopped at a convenience store to get snacks/cigarettes/coffee, which was a common practice condoned by employer because workers often returned with some to share—something deemed to be for the employer's benefit.
- Commuting in a company car. This is not absolute, but if you are required to drive a company car, any injury sustained in it may be compensable.
- Travel to multiple job sites. If you are required to travel to numerous job sites in a single shift, your driving is likely to be considered job-related.
- Injury occurs in the parking lot or on or near some property owned by the company. This proximity and the control employer had over site will be important.
There is no guarantee in any case, but there could be other exceptions in your case we haven't mentioned here. Discuss your concerns with our San Diego workers' compensation attorneys to learn more about whether you might have a viable claim.