by Kenneth Coble
As many employees return to their workplace after COVID-19, it is important to remember the Going and Coming Rule and it’s application under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Under the Act, an injury is compensable only if it is the result of an accident arising out of and in the course of the employment. “Arising out of” refers to the cause of the accident. The employee must be about the business of the employer. “In the course of” refers to the time, place and circumstances under which an accident occurred. The accident must happen during the time and at the place of employment. Under the going and coming rule, generally an injury by accident occurring while an employee travels to and from work is not one that arises out of or in the course of employment. The rationale behind this rule is that the risk of injury while traveling to and from work is one common to the public at large and not a peculiar risk to employment.
There are four generally recognized exceptions to the going and coming rule: (1) Premises Exception – The employee is going to or coming from work but is on the employer’s premises when the accident occurs. For this exception to apply, the employee must be on property that is owned, maintained or controlled by the employer when the accident occurs. (2) Special Errand Exception – The employee is acting in the course of his employment and in the performance of some duty, errand, or mission thereto when the accident occurs. (3) Traveling Salesman Exception – The employee has no definite time and place of employment, requiring him/her to make a journey to perform a service on behalf of the employer. If travel is contemplated as part of the employment, an injury from an accident during travel is compensable. An employee whose work entails travel away from the employer’s premises is held to be within the course of his/her employment continuously during the trip, except when a distinct departure on a personal errand is shown. Injuries arising out of the necessity of sleeping in hotels or eating in restaurants away from home are usually held compensable under this exception. (4) Contractual Duty Exception – the employer contractually provides transportation or allowances to cover the cost of transportation. The transportation must be provided as a matter of right. If it is merely permissive, gratuitous, or a mere accommodation, this exception would not apply.
There are also other caveats and variations depending on the facts of your case as it relates to the application of the Going and Coming Rule. If you have a situation where someone has been injured on the way to or home from work, you should consult with your attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case and how the rule might or might not apply.