You Be the Judge

Does Coming and Going Rule Sink Firefighter Claim?

Employer challenges claim for injury sustained during travel.
By: | March 31, 2014 • 2 min read

A firefighter was working in a light-duty position due to problems related to a prior work-related back injury. He was assigned to the fire department headquarters. While he was on light duty, the firefighter stopped by his regular fire station each month to pick up his work mail. His supervisors knew he was doing this.


The department encouraged firefighters, including those on light duty, to engage in two hours of physical training per shift. Firefighters were paid during those two hours, and they could train at any location they chose.

The firefighter began his shift at a high school where he trained, and then traveled to his regular station to gather his office mail. While he was traveling, he was involved in an accident and was injured. The firefighter filed a claim for workers’ compensation.

The county contested the claim, arguing that his injury did not arise out of or in the course of his employment, although it conceded that any injury sustained during physical training at the high school would have been covered by workers’ compensation.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed with the county and denied the claim. The trial court also denied the claim because the injury occurred while he was “coming and going” to work.

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The county conceded that the firefighter had been at the high school for a work-related purpose but argued that the fire station was not a work-related site. The court disagreed, pointing out that he was picking up work-related mail and his supervisors were aware. The court found that the county “acquiesced” the firefighter’s act of gathering mail at the fire station.

The positional risk test applies where a worker is injured while engaging in activities incidental to his employment. The court concluded that the firefighter’s travel was incidental to his employment and could not be excluded from coverage by application of the going and coming rule. The court found that “but for” his travel between work-related sites, he would not have been injured.

How the court ruled: C. The Maryland Court of Appeals held that the firefighter’s injury arose out of and in the course of his employment and was compensable. Roberts v. Montgomery County, No. 39, September Term, 2013 (Md. 01/28/14).


A is incorrect. The court found that the coming and going rule did not apply, but the positional risk test was applicable. The firefighter’s travel incidental to his employment could not be excluded from coverage by application of the going and coming rule.

B is incorrect. The court rejected the county’s assertion that the fire station was not a work-related site to which the firefighter was traveling. He was planning to engage in a work-related act at the fire station to which the county acquiesced.

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]