Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Massachusetts man denied workers’ comp after falling asleep at the wheel

Car accidents are the most common cause of workplace injuries, but sometimes these types of workers’ compensation claims aren’t as clear cut as they would seem, as a recent case in Massachusetts proves.

A Big Dig employee, driving home after a 27-hour shift, fell asleep at the wheel and was injured. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits, arguing that he had been ordered to work beyond his normal shift and therefore should be covered by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. Normally, car accidents that happen when employees are going to or coming for work are not covered under workers’ compensation.

In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the employee had not proven that he was ordered to work his regular shift and was not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

"We need not decide in this case whether a requirement by an employer that an
employee work overtime to such an extent that the employee's trip home is made
substantially more hazardous can give rise to a compensable injury," Chief
Justice Margaret H. Marshall wrote for the court. "[H]ere the employee has not
met his burden to show that he was required by his employer to work beyond his
usual shift."

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