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Workplace accidents: What defines being on employer's premises?

Dealing with a work-related injury can be very difficult. In addition to the pain and time spent away from work, a person may have to worry about a difficult workers' compensation claim. Employers -- and workers' compensation insurance providers -- may do whatever is necessary to deny a claim.

A recent workers' compensation case out of New Jersey involved an important legal question that may be relevant to workplace accident cases in Minnesota. As a woman was driving out of her employer's parking lot, she was injured in a collision with an oncoming vehicle. She filed a claim for compensation, but it was denied on the grounds that she had left the employer's property. On appeal, judges examined exactly what constitutes being on an employer's premises.

When the collision occurred, most of the employee's vehicle was off of the property of the casino where she worked. However, a foot of the vehicle's rear section was still on the property. In challenging the claim for coverage, the employer said that the employee was physically off the property, along with most of her SUV, which absolved them of any liability.

Ultimately, the two-judge panel determined that the woman was technically still on her employer's premises, so she was eligible for workers' compensation coverage.

Generally speaking, a person is eligible for workers' compensation benefits if he or she is injured in the normal course of employment. The contention in this case is that as long as employees are on their employer's property, they are still considered to be at work. Of course, workers' compensation law can vary from state to state, but this incident dealt with a question that may be at the heart of other difficult cases.

Source: USA Today, "Casino dealer wins workers' comp fight by a foot," Jim Walsh, Jan. 22, 2014

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