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What Does it Mean to Be Injured While On the Job?


In law, definitions matter, and often, arguments arise over what appear to be even the simplest of words. One such word or phrase that is often argued about in court, is what an on the job injury is, for the purposes of receiving workers’ compensation benefits. This seems like an easy thing to define, and it often is, but there are times when the issue is not so clear.

When is an Employee at Work?

To obtain workers’ compensation benefits, an injury must occur while the worker is in the course and scope of his or her employment. The injury must happen at a location that the employer would reasonably anticipate the worker to be, and it must occur during work hours.

The worker’s injury must also arise out of his or her job duties. This means that the inherent nature of the job, or the worker’s job duties, must have exposed the worker to the conditions that lead to the injury.

Many courts will ask whether the duties of someone’s work are a significant contributing factor to the worker’s injury. If so, workers’ compensation benefits will be available.

Examples of Work Related Accidents

Assume that a secretary in an office suffers a heart attack while on the job, and while doing her job duties. It is likely that a workers’ compensation provider would challenge whether this kind of injury was caused by her work. The secretary would have suffered the heart attack whether she was at work, at home, or doing anything else.

However, now assume a construction worker, working in the heat, and carrying heavy equipment suffers a heart attack. Here, the worker can argue that his or her job exposed her to conditions—physical labor in hot weather—that caused or contributed to the heart attack. Now, it is a bit more likely that workers’ compensation would apply.

Someone working from home that trips over his or her dog likely is not injured because of anything related to her job. However, someone that works from home and develops a back injury from prolonged sitting at her home office, may have a valid workers’ compensation claim.

When Insurance Denies Claims

Workers’ compensation insurers will argue that an injury was not job related when circumstances allow them to, but they are often wary of doing so because by doing that, they could be exposing their insureds (the employers) to liability. As a general rule, an insurance company or employer cannot get the benefits of workers’ compensation immunity, while at the same time arguing that no workers’ compensation coverage is available.

A worker that is denied workers’ compensation benefits because the insurance company says the injury was not caused by his or her job, could sue the worker’s employer for personal injury damages, if there is some basis to do so (such as the employer’s negligence).

Have you been injured on the job? Workers’ compensation may help you until you are able to return. The Tampa workers’ compensation attorneys at Barbas, Nuñez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian can help you if you were injured in an accident while on the job. Schedule a consultation today.

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