One of the most important questions in any workers’ compensation claim under Connecticut law is, “Was it a work-related injury?” Workers’ compensation benefits can cover many kinds of injuries and illnesses, but generally only if they were sustained by an employee as part of their work duties. Benefits generally don’t apply to injuries sustained while the employee was traveling to or from work. But a recent court decision in another state under a legal rule also recognized in Connecticut shows what can sometimes be an exception to that rule.

The case concerns a surgical technician who was injured in a car accident as she was driving home from a shift at the hospital where she worked. She suffered serious injuries and could not work for 37 weeks. The hospital denied her request for workers’ compensation benefits because she was driving home at the time of the accident. However, she was also on-call at the time of the accident, meaning that she could be called back to work at any time.

The woman took her employer to court, but a trial court found her injury could not be covered by workers’ compensation because it was not a work-related injury. However, an appeals court reversed that decision, finding that the woman sustained the injuries “in the course of employment,” as required under state law. A key part of this analysis came under the “coming and going” rule that allows workers in some situations to be covered by workers’ compensation when traveling to and from work.

While this particular case isn’t binding in Connecticut, it does illustrate some of the issues that come up frequently in Connecticut workers’ compensation disputes. To be covered by workers’ compensation benefits, an illness or injury must be work-related, but that does not necessarily mean it must happen at an office or job site. Connecticut courts recognize the “coming and going” rule and have granted compensation in cases involving injuries sustained while commuting between the home and work.

Connecticut workers’ compensation laws can be complicated and the system can be difficult to navigate. But when workers are hurt in the course of employment, they need these benefits to handle medical expenses and lost wages. It’s important for injured workers to get help understanding their rights.

Source: Memphis Daily News, “Workers’ Comp and On-Call Workers,” Jim Mulroy, April 15, 2013