Walking Home From Our House Christmas Eve: "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and Work-Related Injuries When Coming and Going from Work
We're all familiar with the holiday tune that recounts Grandma's unfortunate encounter with Santa and his reindeer. She's found the next day with "hoof prints on her forehead/And incriminating Claus marks on her back". Sadly, if Grandma were your employee and the accident happened in a location that can possibly be related to her work, that encounter with nature just might be a work-related injury.
Maine workers' compensation law generally has two requirements that must be met to bring an injury into the arena of work-relatedness. In order to be considered a work-related injury, the injury must both "arise out of" and "in the course of" employment. What this generally means is that the injury must have its cause or source in the work duties or environment. For example, if Grandma is walking to her car in a snowy parking lot at the end of a long day off-site for mandatory training for her job, a slip and fall on the way to her car might be considered by Maine's Workers' Compensation Board to be work-related.
However, in order for such an injury to be found to be work-related, the slip and fall must also happen "in the course of" her work. What this means is that the injury must also occur at a place where the employee may be to perform job duties, or activities incidental to his or her job duties. This requirement has been interpreted in Maine broadly enough to encompass locations such as the outside common stairwell of a building in which the employee worked, an off-site fit-for-duty pre-employment physical, and even on the way to an auto dealership to purchase a personal automobile.
Now in our holiday tune, Grandma had "been drinkin too much egg-nog" when she ventured out into the snow, which in Maine may be a defense to the claim by her Estate. But as the snow begins to fly in Maine, it is useful to remember the broad nature of potential coverage found under the Workers' Compensation Act. Should you have questions at any time about your business' obligations and rights under the Maine Workers' Compensation Act, please feel free to contact a member of the Verrill Dana Labor & Employment Practice Group for guidance.