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Good Samaritan hurt on the way to a meeting: Workplace accident?

When one Pennsylvania insurance claims adjustor was headed out to an appointment one day, she encountered a traffic accident. The driver of a pickup truck full of aluminum siding apparently hadn't secured the load very well, and when the truck came to a stop, the siding slid out the back and was flung all over the road. The insurance adjuster stopped and offered to help clean up the mess.

While she was helping out, she slipped and fell. She injured her thumb and knee and, since she had been traveling for work, she reported it as a workplace accident and made a workers' comp claim.

Unfortunately, her employer's workers' comp insurer did not think this series of events should qualify as a workplace accident. She was essentially an office employee, they said, so it was a stretch to say her accident was work-related. Moreover, she didn't have to be a Good Samaritan -- that was completely outside of her job duties. The way they saw it, she wasn't on company time when she decided to help out the hapless pickup truck driver.

The workers' compensation judge, however, granted her claim, so the workers' comp insurer appealed to the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.

The Board agreed that she was indeed on the job when she was injured. First of all, although she did appear at the office each morning to get her list of appointments, her typical day was spent driving around and attending appointments. She was also provided with a company car for that purpose, so it was perfectly clear that driving was part of her job. That means she qualifies under workers' compensation law as a "travelling employee."

But was stopping to help pick up the strewn siding too far outside her job duties? No, the Board determined. For a travelling employee, taking a moment to stop and help a fellow driver in distress is not so far afield from the scope of her employment that a reasonable person would consider her to have abandoned her job duties. Her actions were "reasonably incidental" to the driving portion of her job, and that's all that is necessary for the activity to qualify as a workplace accident.

Source: Risk & Insurance magazine's Workers' Comp Forum, "Claims adjustor wins benefits while traveling between appointments," March 11, 2013

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