Is a Worker Entitled to Benefits for Injury While Entering Vehicle?
A drilling company provided its worker with a truck for travel related to his job and for personal use. The worker could be called into work at any time. His superior called him to attend a meeting more than 200 miles away from his home. As he was climbing into the truck to leave for the trip, the worker's foot slipped, and he hit his right knee on the stirrup of the truck. He had immediate pain and required medical attention. The worker sought workers' compensation benefits.
State law excludes benefits for injuries sustained during travel to or from employment unless the worker is reimbursed for travel expenses or is transported by a vehicle of the employer.
The Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division denied benefits to the worker. The worker appealed. The Office of Administrative Hearings granted summary judgment to the division, which upheld the denial of benefits. The worker sought review.
Was the division correct in denying benefits to the worker?
A.No.The worker was injured while entering the truck in preparation for work-related travel, which is compensable.
B.Yes.The worker was not injured while being carried or conveyed from one place to another.
C.No.The company owned the truck and provided it to the worker to use for work.
How the court ruled: B. The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the division, which denied workers' compensation benefits to the worker. Barlow v. State of Wyoming, ex rel., Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, No. S10-0243 (Wyo. 08/24/11).
The court determined that the law was unambiguous. Examining the definition of "transport," the court explained that an injury sustained during travel is only compensable if it occurred as the worker was being "carried or conveyed from one place to another." Entering the truck while preparing for travel did not fit within the meaning of the law. The court said the law's language was "specific and narrow."
Two dissenting judges opined that the worker's injury was compensable because it did arise during travel and the worker established causation between the injury and his employment. The judges stated that the law did not indicate that the vehicle must have had some initial movement in order for the injury to be compensable. The judges opined that the worker was entering the truck in furtherance of his employment.
A is incorrect. The court explained that entering the vehicle did not meet the plain language of the law that injuries during travel are compensable. The court said that this meant the injury must occur as the worker is being "carried or conveyed from one place to another." Nothing in the law stated that injuries that occurred while preparing for travel were compensable. The dissenting judges opined that it is obvious that a worker must enter a vehicle in order to travel in it, so there was no reason to deny recovery.
C is incorrect. The court explained that, although the company owned the truck and provided it to the worker, he was not injured while being transported.
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
October 20, 2011
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