When you think about a workplace injury, you probably imagine an incident happening at work during the normal course of your employment. You may know how to handle these types of injury claims according to your state’s workers’ compensation program. If, however, your accident occurred outside of work but at a company event, you may be confused about your rights. Injuries at a company event may be a gray area in terms of employer liability and workers’ compensation. Find out who may be liable after a company event injury with help from an attorney.
Definition of Work-Related Accident
Most states’ workers’ compensation programs do not stipulate the accident must occur at the place of work to qualify as compensable. Rather, they say the injury must have happened within the course of employment. The course of employment can refer to actions outside the office, such as while traveling to a work meeting, doing a job on someone else’s property or delivering goods as part of your job. It could also refer to company-sponsored events or retreats.
According to Wendt Law, a Kansas City injury firm, the main question when determining your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits is whether you were on- or off-duty when you sustained the injury. If you were on-duty, even at a location other than your typical workplace, you should qualify for workers’ compensation. Your state’s program will most likely cover any injuries you sustain while on the clock, regardless of your location or the circumstances of your accident. If, however, you were off-duty at the time, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will not cover damages.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Events
If your boss makes an annual company event or retreat mandatory, you may have grounds to file a claim after a personal injury. Involuntary work events mean you could lose your job or face other repercussions for not attending. An accident at a mandatory work event could make your employer strictly liable for your damages. If, however, the event is not mandatory, workers’ compensation may not apply. Most employers make sure company events are voluntary to avoid liability for employee accidents and injuries.
Workers’ compensation will not cover your damages if you had the option of not attending the event. Since going to the event or retreat was not part of your job description or a mandatory work-related task, you will not be a covered employee at the time of the picnic, volleyball game or another event. In these situations, however, you may be able to hold your employer generally liable outside of the workers’ compensation system.
General Liability for Employee Injuries
Your employer may be independently liable – outside the boundaries of workers’ compensation insurance – for your injuries if it caused or contributed to them. If, for example, your employer owned the property where you slipped and fell, the employer could be generally liable based on the rules of premises liability. You or your attorney will have to prove your employer’s negligence to qualify for compensation.
- Your employer owed you a duty to exercise reasonable care. The company event must have assigned your employer a duty of care to you in some manner.
- Your employer breached this duty, causing your injuries. Your employer must have negligently fallen below the standards of care for the situation. This negligence must have been a substantial factor in causing your injuries.
- You suffered compensable damages at the company event. Finally, you must have suffered a serious injury such as a broken bone, along with compensable damages, to have grounds for a claim.
If you or your injury lawyer can demonstrate negligence by your employer at the company event, you may be eligible for compensation. It will not matter whether the company sponsored the event or not if your employer negligently contributed to your injuries. Although you might not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, your employer may owe you for medical costs, pain and suffering, and lost wages for causing your damages.
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