January 31, 2014
If an injury is an accident that arises out of and in the course of employment, it is compensable under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. The worker/claimant has the burden of proving the requirements. The injuries suffered during the travel related to work may be compensable if the injuries are incurred: while at lodges, motels or while eating in restaurants; while traveling by car, train, or airplane; while traveling toward the employee’s working territory or area of service; or while engaged in social or recreational activities.
Pursuant to North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, the phrase “in the course of the employment” refers to the time, place, and circumstances under which an accidental injury occurs, while “arising out of the employment” refers to the origin or cause of the accidental injury.
Going and Coming Rule:
Pursuant to this rule, injuries sustained by an employee while going to or from work are not ordinarily compensable because the injuries do not arise out of or in the course of employment.
This is because the risk of injury while traveling to and from work is one common to the public at large, and an employee is not engaged in the business of the employer while driving his or her personal vehicle to the place of work or while leaving the place of employment to go home.
This rule has some exceptions:
(1) an employee is going to or coming from work but is on the employer’s premises when the accident occurs (premises exception)
(2) the employee is acting in the course of his employment and in the performance of some duty, errand, or mission thereto (special errands exception);
(3) an employee has no definite time and place of employment, requiring her to make a journey to perform a service on behalf of the employer (traveling salesman exception); or
(4) an employer contractually provides transportation or allowances to cover the cost of transportation (contractual duty exception).
A ‘traveling employee’ is an employee whose work requires travel from place to place or to a place away from a permanent residence or the employee’s place of business. If an employee works on a fixed hours and place of work, going to and from work is covered only on the employer’s premises.
In the case of traveling employees, the required travel away from the employer’s premises is within the course of their employment. If the traveling employees suffer injury during their travel, it is compensable under the NC Workers’ Compensation Act. But if there is a distinct departure for a personal errand during their travel it is not compensable.
In some cases, NC Courts held that a traveling employee will be compensated under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act for injuries received while returning to his hotel, while going to a restaurant, or while returning to work after having made a detour for his own personal pleasure.
The NC Courts consistently held that the Workers’ Compensation Act should be liberally construed and that where any reasonable relationship to employment exists, or employment is a contributory cause, the injury “arose out of employment.”