Can a traveling employee who is injured on the road be entitled to workers compensation benefits?

Employees injured within the scope of their employment are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Recently, a Pennsylvania court found that an electronic technician was still within the scope of his employment when he was injured while removing debris from a highway.

The technician was traveling to various job sites for his employer. When he encountered debris on a highway entrance ramp, he pulled his van to the shoulder of the ramp and got out and picked up the debris. He then noticed more debris, including cardboard boxes, in the highway traffic lanes. He waited for traffic to clear and ran to remove the boxes. Unfortunately, he was struck and seriously injured by a car he had not seen approaching.

The insurance carrier argued that the employee was not in the scope of his employment when he went beyond taking care of his own needs and cleared debris that was not blocking his own van. It also argued that the employee had engaged in dangerous conduct. The court disagreed and found that employees who travel are presumed to be furthering the business of their employer unless they so clearly depart from their business purposes that they have “abandoned” their employment. The court ruled that the technician’s clearing additional debris was an “innocent departure” from his business activities and that he exercised care and acted cautiously by looking before he ran out onto the highway.

If you are a traveling employee and are injured while on the road, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even if you were not directly advancing your employer’s needs at the time of your injury. A very distinct break in your employment duties could deprive you of the entitlement to benefits.

If you are an employer of traveling employees, you should consider defining your employees’ duties in writing. While your directives will not be controlling, they might affect a court’s consideration of whether an injured employee was engaged in a distinct break from employment duties when injured.