Many people in Baltimore travel for work on occasion or even regularly. Anyone who has experienced an accident or near miss while traveling may have wondered how an injury that occurs under such circumstances would be viewed under Maryland's workers' compensation system. Fortunately, many injuries that occur during work-related travel may be treated as though the employee was directly injured at work, even if the injury occurred outside of the employee's work duties.
Defining work-related injuries
Work-related injuries are not automatically considered compensable in Maryland. The Maryland Workers' Compensation Law only allows compensation for a work-related injury that meets the following criteria:
- The injury must occur accidentally.
- The injury must arise due to the nature of the employee's work.
- The injury must occur in the course of the employee's duties.
Under these standards, many work-related injuries may not qualify for compensation. For instance, if a worker suffers an injury while taking a break or significantly departing from his or her job duties, the injury may not be covered.
Traveling employee standards
For traveling employees, these standards are not quite as strict. When considering workers' compensation claims involving travel, courts have previously held that most of an employee's activities during a work trip fall within the course of employment. For example, activities that are necessary because the employee is traveling, such as bathing in a hotel shower, are considered part of the worker's employment. Injuries that occur during these activities, such as slip-and-fall shower injuries, may be compensable.
When traveling employees depart from activities that are work-related or reasonably necessary to engage in personal activities, determining whether an injury is compensable can be more difficult. However, in 2014, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that reasonable and foreseeable recreational activities are a reasonably expectable part of travel, which means that related injuries may be compensable.
Reasonable, foreseeable activities
The court considered the case of a worker who suffered a slip-and-fall accident at a lounge and nightclub facility in the hotel where he was staying and working. The worker's presence at the facility could be viewed as a personal errand, since the worker's employer did not instruct him to go to there or stand to gain from the excursion. The state Workers' Compensation Commission declined the worker's initial claim for benefits on this basis.
The Court of Special Appeals, however, found that an activity may be incidental to travel, and therefore compensable, without being considered a necessary or essential activity. Recreational activities that are expectable and reasonable for a traveling employee to engage in may qualify as incidental to travel.
The court concluded that the worker's choice of activity was not unusual or risky. The fact that the injury occurred where the worker was staying and near the location where he was physically working further strengthened the claim. Based on these factors, the court found that the worker was entitled to compensation for his injury.
Seek guidance during injury claims
As this case reveals, determining whether traveling injuries are compensable can be challenging, depending on the circumstances of the injury. In some cases, employees may not even realize that an injury qualifies as work-related. Employees who have suffered an injury while working out of town or traveling for work should think about meeting with a workers' compensation attorney to discuss the circumstances of the accident and evaluate whether the injury might be compensable.
Keywords: workers' compensation, injury, work-related