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Workers’ Compensation – Course of Employment (2008)

The Workers’ Compensation Law provides coverage for accidents that “arise out of and in the course of employment.” Generally, this means that the accident has to occur while someone is working, and that it must happen because of the work. However, the law also provides coverage for accidents that happen during minor breaks or deviations from work (such as a coffee or bathroom break), or where what the worker is doing at the time of the accident was a benefit to the employer.

Our client, a taxi driver, was on a break when a motorist asked him to help jump start his car, which had a dead battery. When our client placed jumper cables on the battery it exploded. He lost his eye in the accident. A WCL Judge found that our client was engaged in a “personal act” at the time of his accident, and was not covered by the law. A Workers’ Compensation Board Panel upheld the Judge’s decision, and we applied for Full Board Review. The Full Board found that our client was injured in the course of his employment, and the insurance company appealed.

The Appellate Division, Third Department upheld the Full Board’s decision in favor of our client, finding that the time and location of his break was dictated by the nature of his employment, and that our client’s activity – even while on his break – “created a good will benefit to the employer” and therefore were in the course of his employment.

Read the McFarland decision here.

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