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Maryland firefighter injured while getting mail eligible for benefits

In early 2014, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Roberts v. Montgomery County, Maryland, No. 39 (Court of Appeals Md Jan. 28, 2014), a workers’ compensation case that dealt with the “going and coming rule.” The decision could beneficial to employees in making workers’ compensation claims in the future.

Injury while traveling

The case stems from an injury that a Maryland firefighter sustained. The man had suffered a back injury in 2004 and had received workers’ compensation benefits for the injury. Part of those benefits included physical training that pertained to a light-duty job modification that the fire department arranged for him. In October 2012, the man was travelling from his physical training appointment to a local fire station to collect his work mail when he lost control of his motorcycle.

The man filed for workers’ compensation benefits for the injuries he received in the accident, but the county denied his claim. The county argued that the man’s injuries did not arise out of the scope of his job duties, so they were not compensable. However, the man claimed that he was eligible for benefits because his employer had arranged the physical training for him and he was on his way to get his work mail when he was injured, so he was essentially going from one location related to work to another work-related location when the accident happened.

Going and coming rule

Both a circuit court and Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals rejected the man’s claim. The courts reasoned that the going and coming rule prohibited the man from collecting benefits for his injuries. The going and coming rule states that it is an employee’s duty to travel to and from work safely, and employers are not liable for injuries that employees receive while commuting to and from work.

The man appealed the denial of benefits, and the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts’ decisions. The court found that the man’s travel was “incidental to his employment” because he was going from job-related training to a fire station to get mail relating to his job. Therefore, his injuries did arise from his job duties and were compensable.

Speak with an attorney

As this case demonstrates, workers’ compensation laws are complex. Even in situations where it appears that a rule prevents a person from being eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, there may be exceptions to that rule. When employees are injured on the job, they are often confused about whether they can get benefits to help them recover and get back to work. A skilled workers’ compensation attorney can offer guidance in navigating the workers’ compensation system and helping to obtain compensation. If you have been injured on the job, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you collect the benefits to which you are legally entitled.

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