In order to be compensable, on-the-job injuries must generally arise “out of and in the course of employment.” The problem is that the line between work and non-work isn’t always clear. In such cases, the difference between an approved claim and a denied one can come down to seemingly insignificant details – which is one reason why it is a good idea to work with an attorney when pursuing workers’ compensation benefits.
The following story is a good illustration of this idea. As a disclaimer, it comes from Australia, which obviously has different laws and customs than the United States. Nonetheless, the incident is one that could have easily happened here in Oklahoma.
In September of last year, an Australian power company worker was on call at home when he got a text saying he needed to come and fix a power line. He got dressed and went out to his company-issued vehicle, a Ford Ranger. His employer required him to use this vehicle to visit job sites.
While climbing into the driver’s seat, he accidentally dropped his keys onto the driveway. He attempted to reach down and grab them without getting out of his seat (as many of us would), which caused him to strain his back. He reported the injury, sought medical attention, and needed to take some time off of work.
His claim for workers’ compensation was initially denied because, the company said, the injury didn’t arise from his employment, nor was his work a significant contributing factor to the injury. Instead, he was simply getting ready to go to work.
This is an objection many employers might make. But the man appealed the claim, citing some important details of his employment agreement. First, he was required to take a company vehicle to the job site. Second (and more important), his pay supposedly starts when he begins his journey to the job site – not when he arrives. On appeal, a judge reversed the original denial of the claim.
Would such a decision be made here in the United States? It’s impossible to say, because each case is unique and independently decided based on the facts presented. But for this reason, it is crucial to present the strongest argument – supported by facts – for why you deserve compensation for a work-related injury. Consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be a great way to ensure that you are ready to present a strong case.