Normally, Workers’ Compensation is not available in Maryland when an employee is injured during his or her regular commute to work. This concept is called the going-and-coming rule, based on the idea that a commute is not an action in the course of employment. Rather, a commute is considered a common, ordinary risk all workers who commute take. However, there are exceptions.
In September, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland released an unpublished opinion, Baltimore County v. Morrison, holding said that two exceptions applied in the case of a police officer, James Morrison, who was in a motorcycle accident on his way home from a work training held away from his normal place of employment. On a day he was scheduled to be off work, he instead attended the training at the suggestion of his superior. Morrison was paid for his time at the training.
The two exceptions that applied were the special missions exception and the free transportation exception.
The special missions exception says that an injury that occurs when the employee is on a special mission or special errand for the employer is covered. To determine if a special mission existed, the court looks at the extent of “inconvenience, hazard, or urgency” of the trip as well as the “trouble and time of making the journey.”
Morrison was held to have been on a special mission because:
- He had never worked at the training site before, showing “lack of regularity in travel.”
- One leg of the journey was a carpool in a police car, suggesting a degree of onerousness as compared to a usual commute.
- The day he attended the training he was scheduled to be off, but he went to the training instead at his employer’s request.
The free transportation exception says that if an employer provides free transportation for a work commute, the employee is on duty and covered if injured. Morrison’s employer provided mileage reimbursement for any part of the trip that was beyond the usual distance Morrison commuted to work. He did not request reimbursement because the part of the trip he made himself on the motorcycle was not longer than his usual commute, but when the carpool leg of the trip was added on, it made the trip long enough that it would normally have been reimbursable, so the exception applied.