You Be the Judge

Is Injury During Drive Home Compensable?

By: | March 14, 2014 • 3 min read

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]

A casino dealer ended her shift and went to her vehicle in the casino’s parking lot. She drove her vehicle along the casino’s driveway, passed through the casino’s security gate, and proceeded to commence a left turn onto a public highway. As the dealer’s vehicle entered the highway, another vehicle collided with the driver’s door of her vehicle. At the point of impact, the dealer’s vehicle was located partially on the highway and partially on the “apron” of the casino’s driveway.

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The dealer filed a workers’ compensation claim, asserting that she sustained injuries to her head, neck, back, hands, shoulders, and knee. The casino denied her claim, asserting that the dealer was not in the course of her employment when the accident occurred.

The judge of compensation found that one foot of the dealer’s vehicle was in the parking area controlled by the casino. Therefore, she was in the course of her employment and was entitled to reasonable and necessary medical treatment and temporary disability benefits.

The casino appealed.

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How the court ruled: The court explained that employment is deemed to commence when a worker arrives at the employer’s place of employment and terminates when the worker leaves the employer’s place of employment, excluding areas not under the control of the employer.

The premises rule limits recovery to injuries that occur on the employer’s premises. Parking lots owned, maintained, or operated by employers are properly considered part of the employer’s premises.

In this case, although the dealer’s vehicle was in the midst of making a left turn onto a public highway, the exact spot where she suffered injuries was not remote from or unconnected to her work premises. The court concluded that her injuries were attached to her workplace.

B is incorrect. The court found that the dealer never fully left the casino’s premises when the accident occurred. The court rejected the casino’s “ultra-rigid approach” that focused only on the colliding vehicles’ point of impact and the front seat location of the dealer in her vehicle.

Applying common sense and the humanitarian policies of workers’ compensation, the court found that the dealer’s injuries were a result of her firm attachment to her place of employment even though she was on her way home.

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C is incorrect. The court found the fact that the public used the highway did not change the result. The connection between the casino’s premises and the collision would make a finding that the dealer’s injuries were not compensable an unjust result.

A is correct. In an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that the dealer’s injuries were compensable. Burdette v. Harrah’s Atlantic City, No. A-4797-12T1 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 01/17/14, unpublished).

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

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.

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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.

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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]