In an unpublished decision issued just last week, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts clarified and affirmed the application of the “going and coming” rule in Massachusetts workers’ compensation cases.
Summary of Kelbe’s Case
In Kelbe’s Case, 2014 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 735, Daniel Kelbe was an employee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After clocking out from work and while traveling home from MIT on his motor scooter, Kelbe had a near-collision with a bicyclist on Ames Street in Cambridge. To avoid the collision, Kelbe ditched his motor scooter, injuring his left leg in the process. Kelbe filed for temporary total incapacity workers’ compensation benefits.
At issue was whether Kelbe was still on his employer’s “premises” when his accident occurred. Kelbe readily admitted that he had clocked out from his employment and was heading home when he crashed his scooter. He argued, however, that because MIT owned buildings on either side of Ames Street, he was still on MIT’s premises and could be compensated. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts rejected Kelbe’s claim, citing the “going and coming” rule.
The “Going and Coming” Rule
As reiterated in Kelbe’s Case, the “going and coming” rule says, as a general matter, employers are not liable for employees’ injuries under the workers’ compensation statute when the employee is traveling to and from work. In other words, after an employee is no longer acting within the scope of his or her employment and he or she leaves the employer’s premises, the employer is no longer liable for any injury the employee sustains.
The Kelbe Court was quick to note that there are important exceptions to the “going and coming” rule. An employer can still be found liable when:
(1) The injury occurs on the employer’s premises or areas over which the employer has the right of passage (such as on stairs or in parking lots);
(2) An employee was injured in a company car provided to the employee for his or her commute;
(3) The employee’s job duties regularly involved travel away from the employer’s premises; and
(4) At the time of the accident, the employee was returning home after attending a work-related off-site meeting.
The “Going and Coming” Rule Applied to Your Case
Some cases involving injuries at work are clear-cut, such as a construction worker who is hit in the head by flying debris while on the jobsite, or a secretary who trips and falls down poorly-lit stairs at her employer’s office. Other workers’ compensation cases involving unique facts can be more difficult to prove and obtain benefits. While rules such as the “going and coming” rule limit your employer’s liability for your injuries in some circumstances, it is important to note that such rules often have exceptions. A skilled workers’ compensation lawyer will know these exceptions and be able to tell if any such exceptions apply to your case.