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Work comp benefits denied to prison guard injured while traveling to work a swapped shift

A recent workers' compensation case before the California Court of Appeals explored a very interesting issue: whether an employee who suffered serious injuries in a car accident on his way to work a swapped shift is entitled to work comp benefits.

According to the facts of the case, Robert D. was employed as a corrections officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and worked at a minimum-security facility that had to be manned 24 hours a day.

Officers working at the facility were permitted to switch shifts without prior approval in the event they would be unable to work their assigned day. In fact, such shift swapping was encouraged by superiors as it eliminated the aggravation of finding a substitute worker and cut back on overtime costs.

In January 2009, Robert D. agreed to swap his shift with a co-worker who had to take his grandmother to the hospital. The swap meant Robert D. would be working the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift instead of his usual 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift.

On the morning of the scheduled shift, Robert D. hit a patch of black ice while driving into work, and skidded off the road into a ravine. He suffered serious injuries as a result of the crash and submitted a claim for work comp benefits.

However, the claim was denied based on the "going and coming" rule, which essentially states that employers are not liable for compensation for any injuries occurring while an employee is traveling to and from their place of employment.

To be continued ...

Stay tuned for more from our workers' compensation defense blog ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

Business Management Daily, "Injury while commuting to swapped shift? That doesn't warrant workers' comp," Dec. 10, 2012

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, No. E054153 (Cal. Ct. App.)

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