Injury While Traveling to Work Covered

Injury While Traveling to Work Covered

Posted: March, 1998

Ruckman v. Cubby Drilling (2/25/98), 81 Ohio St.3d 117.

Issue: Can employees injured in a car accident while traveling to a drilling site participate in the workers’ compensation system for their injuries?

Background: This case involves three workers injured in a car accident which occurred while traveling from their homes to a site where they drilled wells. There were two car accidents, each of which happened to employees engaged in ride- sharing arrangements which the employees initiated. The employer had no involvement in the ride sharing.

The case involved (1) whether the injuries were compensable under the Ohio workers’ compensation system, and (2) whether the ride-sharing arrangements exempted the employees from workers’ compensation based on R.C. 4123.452, which provides that because an injury occurred during a ridesharing arrangement does not make the injury one which occurred in the course of employment.

Decision: The Supreme Court finds the injuries compensable. In so doing, the Court modifies the application of the “going and coming” rule.

The Court first indicates that the going and coming rule applies to an employee when employment duties start only after the employee arrives at a specific work location — even if, as in the present case, the specific work location changes on a weekly or daily basis.

If an employee’s work duties start only after the employee arrives at a specific site, the employee is considered a “fixed situs” employee and the “going and coming” rule applies.

The Court then modified the traditional going and coming rule. The going and coming rule indicated that an injury which occurred while traveling to work was not compensable unless it occurred due to a “special hazard” caused by the employment.

The Supreme Court modified this “special hazard” rule to apply only to the “arising out of” requirement for workers’ compensation. The Court required that an injured worker must independently show that the injury occurred in the “course of” employment.

In this case, the Court indicates that the fact that the travel to the business site satisfies a business obligation satisfies the “course of” employment.

The Court then indicated, based on the “special hazard” rule, that the temporary nature and constantly changing location of the drilling sites, as well as the distance of the commutes satisfied the “arising out of” requirement.

Finally, on the ride sharing issue, the Court finds that the ride sharing statute only means that ride sharing does not convert the ordinary commute to work into an activity “in the course of employment.”

Editor’s Comment: The case contains an excellent concurring opinion, written by Justice Resnick.

The concurring opinion points out that these worksites cannot, by definition, be considered “fixed” because they are constantly changing.

Additionally, the concurrence recognizes that when the travel is an integral part of the employment, as in the present case, no basis exists to apply the arising out of test or the “special hazard” rule. The concurrence concludes this analysis by stating:

Accordingly, I would hold that an employee who is required to report to various or constantly changing work sites is not generally subject to the going-and-coming rule. When an employee is injured during travel to an from a variable work situs, his or her injury is generally received in the course of, and arising out of, his or her employment.

Information courtesy of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin. Subscribe to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin to keep informed about the Ohio workers’ compensation system.