The simple answer is YES. The most commonly seen circumstance is one in which someone has both a personal injury claim and a worker’s compensation claim together occur when an employee travels in connection with their employment. A traveling employee is someone who must travel away from the employee’s home or the employer’s place of business in order to perform their job. They are deemed to be in the continuous furtherance of their employer’s business, unless engaged in conduct significant enough to be considered a substantial deviation. Keep in mind that traveling for work does not include travel that occurs as a result of going to, or coming from your job. Florida applies the going and coming rule for ordinary travel to and from work. If an accident and injury occur while an employee is simply going to or coming from work, then the accident is not considered work related, and not compensable. A “compensable,” accident is one in which the employee is entitled to work comp benefits.
Consider the semi – truck driver, the home health care nurse, the ambulance driver, the garbage truck driver, the pizza delivery driver, the driver for FedEx or UPS, the home prescription delivery driver, the tow truck driver, the foreman traveling to various construction sites, and the flight attendant as some examples of traveling employees. If an auto accident occurs while a traveling employee is engaged in activity reasonably related to carrying out their job duties, that employee now has two claims, or, explained slightly differently, they now have two cases. That employee is eligible to recover damages from the auto insurance policy of the driver causing the accident, and their own auto insurance policy. The scope of personal injury damages available to that employee are not limited by the fact that they were at work at the time of their accident. Plus, they are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. Because the accident occurred while they were in the course and scope of their employment, worker’s compensation medical and lost wage benefits are available. The eligibility for personal injury damages and work comp benefits is what is meant by the statement that the employee has “two cases,” noted above.
In addition to such travel for the purpose of carrying out their job duties, there are other exceptions to the going and coming rule that apply. One such exception is the dual purpose doctrine. In Swartz v. McDonald’s Corp., 26 Fla. L. Weekly 350 (Fla. May 24, 2001), injuries sustained by an employee who was both traveling home and transporting materials necessary for her attendance at a function for her employer were compensable under the dual purpose doctrine. In so doing, we reaffirmed our previous decisions by holding that so long as both a business and personal purpose exist, the dual purpose doctrine is applicable, and the accident is compensable. Meaning, although Swartz was not considered a traveling employee, she was still entitled to both work comp benefits and to recover personal injury damages. Because she was involved in an auto accident, the remedies available to someone injured as a result of someone else’s negligence were available to her.
Another example of an exception is the special errand exception. If a sudden or unusual request is made by an employer to an employee, and that employee is injured while carrying out that special errand, their accident is considered compensable. For example, if a company is throwing an office party and the owner asks one of the employees to, “run out and buy some more plastic cups,” for the event, an accident that occurs while the employee is on that special errand is deemed to fall within the special errand exception and thus be a compensable accident. Therefore, another example of an employee having two cases, both a personal injury case and work comp case, exists.
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There are additional examples of circumstances wherein an employee would be eligible for both personal injury and worker’s compensation benefits. Consider a circumstance wherein the negligence of a third party causes an employee’s injury. That employee is entitled to work comp benefits, and able to bring suit against the third party for damages that arose out of the accident.
If you believe you have been injured as a result of another party’s negligence, contact our office to discuss your options. If you have been injured on the job and believe you may be entitled to recover for someone else’s negligence, please contact our office to discuss the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765