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Workers’ Compensation Benefits Denied for Telecommuter Who Tripped Over Dog

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In the past, working involved going to a physical place of employment. In the past decade, however, more and more employers have granted the option to telecommute, which allows employees to work at home, a coffee shop or other location away from the office. While remote work offers many benefits for employees and employers alike, it can also be complex when it comes to issues such as workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation is fairly straightforward when the accident occurs at a physical workplace, such as when a person is crushed by a machine in a warehouse, or when an office worker trips and falls on a rug. However, when a person works from home, what is considered a workplace injury?

A woman tripped over her dog while working from home, causing her to suffer significant injuries. After three years, the court decided that the woman is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. While two judges believed that the woman should have received workers’ compensation, the majority did not.

The employee worked from her home in Arizona as a claims adjuster for Sedgwick CMS, but was assigned to an office in Florida. On April 27, 2016, she was working from home when she tripped over her dog in the kitchen. She was reaching to grab a cup of coffee when the accident occurred.

The woman suffered injuries to her hip, shoulder and knee. She filed a workers’ compensation claim, but Sedgwick denied the claim, stating that the woman’s injuries did not come from her employment. The case went to the 1st District Court of Appeal in Florida, where the court ruled 12-2 that benefits should be denied.

One judge who disagreed with the decision claimed that while tripping over one’s own dog in one’s own home may not seem like a valid claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the fact remains that the woman was still injured during work hours in her workplace.  The fact that the woman’s kitchen doubled as her breakroom should have had no bearing on the claim.

A judge who denied the claim stated that employers should not face immunity for accidents that happen while an employee is working remotely. However, since the injury was not caused by a risk that the company introduced, benefits are not available. The woman was injured while engaged in a permissible activity, though, as she was taking a break at the time. Had the accident happened while she was in a physical office, she likely would have been approved for benefits.

 Contact Us for More Information About Workers’ Compensation Benefits

With more and more people working from home, it is getting harder to determine whether or not a person was working under state workers’ compensation laws.  The laws are complex. If you have been injured while performing work duties, seek legal help.

White Plains workers’ compensation lawyer Michael Lawrence Varon can help you with your workers’ compensation claim. He can not only support you throughout the process, but help you maximize your compensation. Call his office at (914) 228-1770 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation.

Resource:

theledger.com/news/20190408/workers-comp-benefits-rejected-for-at-home-fall/1

https://www.nycompensationlaw.com/possible-changes-to-workers-compensation-in-2019/

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