When someone gets injured while on a business trip, he or she may be eligible to file a claim to recover the expenses resulting from the injury. The injury or accident will typically be covered under workers’ compensation if it occurred while the person was engaging in a work-related activity. However, what is considered work-related during a business trip is not always clear.
What Is Work-Related for the Purpose of Workers’ Compensation?
When an employee is on travel status, injuries sustained are generally considered work-related if the employee was engaging in work activities in the employer’s interest at the time of the injury. Suppose an employee was on an out-of-town trip and was injured while he or she was working at the company booth during a conference. The employee is likely to be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for the work-related injury.
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), work-related activities start when an employee leaves his or her home to begin the business trip, assuming he or she did not plan to go to the office before embarking on the trip. Therefore, transportation between the home and the airport is considered work travel. If the employee reports to the office first, the travel status begins when he or she leaves the office to start the trip.
Injuries that occur while traveling for business (for example, flying, driving, or taking a ferry) are likely to be covered. The travel status will end when the employee returns to the travel starting point, which could be the employee’s home or office.
Injuries are not considered work-related if they occur when an employee detours from regular work duties to pursue personal errands or outside interests. Such injuries are unlikely to qualify for compensation.
For example, an employee out of town for a conference may add several days to the end of the business trip for vacation purposes. If he or she gets injured during the extension of the trip, workers’ compensation is unlikely to cover the injury. While injuries suffered when going to dinner with clients for business purposes may be covered, injuries suffered when going to dinner for personal reasons after work hours are probably not covered. Injuries that occur while sightseeing are also not compensable.
Workers’ compensation coverage may not be enough to cover all medical expenses. Employees who are injured while traveling for business can also file personal injury claims against third parties. A third party is another company or person not affiliated with the employer, such as a negligent road user, airline, or auto manufacturer.
For example, an employee involved in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver can file a third-party lawsuit against the at-fault driver, in addition to the claim for workers’ compensation.
What is covered and not covered when traveling as part of one’s employment is not always clear-cut. Therefore, employees should not assume that they will not receive compensation for their injuries without seeking clarification, for example, from HR professionals and workers’ compensation attorneys. A company may carry travel insurance tailored specifically to business trip injuries and other unexpected situations.