What Happens if I Get Hurt at Work While Off the Clock?

injured before I clock in

Workers’ Compensation insurance is required, with a few exceptions, for all employers. The insurance is intended to cover workers when they get injured at work, covering their lost wages and medical expenses. However, an injured worker is still dealing with an insurance company that wants to keep its profits as high as possible. 

Because of this industry practice of denying claims, you may need the assistance of a lawyer who can advocate on your behalf. The key is whether you suffered your injury “at work,” or whether you were not working. This is a fine distinction but one that your case could hinge on.

Workers’ Compensation Eligibility

To be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, you must have suffered an injury at work. Workers’ Compensation insurance is no-fault, which means that unless you intentionally harmed yourself, you are entitled to the benefits under your employer’s policy, so long as you meet the requirement of being injured at work. To understand what that means, here are some examples.

If you are a delivery driver and you get into a car accident en route to a delivery, you would probably have a legitimate claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits. This example follows the so-called while in the course of employment rule of working. Even though you were not at a physical work location, you were conducting work as part of your job when you were injured. As a result, this type of injury would be considered a workplace injury and entitle you to benefits under your employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy.

In another example, you are still a delivery driver, but now you have made your last delivery of the day and you are driving home when you get into an accident. In this situation, you would most likely not be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits because you are commuting. This is known as the coming and going rule, an exception to Workers’ Compensation benefits. 

More Specific Examples of Off-the-Clock Exceptions

In most cases, your Workers’ Compensation benefits cover you while you are clocked into work. But it could also include time shortly before and after you are clocked in.

For example, you work at a big box store and you are required to park in designated employee parking, far away from the store entrance, giving customers access to close parking spots. You arrive at work, park in the designated parking area, and walk toward the store. You have not yet clocked into work when a customer driving through the parking lot hits you and you get injured. Even though you were not clocked in, your employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy would still cover you because you were at work and your commute was over.

Here is another example going back to the delivery driver scenario. Some deliveries require you to be gone from home for a day or two. After making a delivery in another city away from home, you are driving to the hotel where you are spending the night before making more deliveries tomorrow and then driving back to your hometown. On your way to the hotel, you get into an accident. An earlier example described this as a commute and Workers’ Compensation would not apply. Here, however, it would apply. Even though you have finished your deliveries for the day, you are not commuting home but rather to a temporary place for the benefit of your employer. As a result, your employer’s Workers’ Compensation benefits would cover you.

Let us look at one more example of a social event at work. Sticking with the delivery driver worker, you are not scheduled to work today but choose to go to the warehouse to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday. While there, you slip on a spilled drink and get injured. Because your employer likely knew that workers would be present even though they were not scheduled to work, your injuries would be covered by Workers’ Compensation. 

Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Workers’ Compensation benefits are not automatically given; you must file a claim. That usually starts with letting your supervisor know as soon as possible after you have been injured. Then you need to file a claim with the insurance company. Each insurance company policy will give a time limit for filing this claim. Some can be as short as two weeks after you are injured. This is a short time to gather the necessary evidence to prove your injuries.

That is one of the most common reasons an insurance company will deny your Workers’ Compensation claim: a lack of evidence. You will need to submit required documents, and if you miss just one, that is reason enough for the insurance company to deny your claim. 

Know that you always have the option to appeal a claim denial but, just like filing the claim to begin with, you need to act fast and appeal in the time provided. If you do not, you will miss out on your chance to get the benefits you are entitled to under your employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Workers’ Compensation only covers two items:

  • Medical bills
  • Missed paychecks

Depending on the severity of your injuries, you could be out of work for a long time, missing months or even years of pay and racking up mountains in medical bills. Because of this, the insurance company will try to settle your claim so that they are not paying out benefits to you for many years. This might sound like a good option to you, since you get money up front and do not have to worry about dealing with the insurance company later. Unfortunately, that can leave many workplace injury victims in financial hardship.

When an insurance company makes you a swift offer, it is usually in their best interest. Their sole goal is to settle your case for as little as possible. That often leaves people like you having to foot the bill for their medical bills and lost income because they settled their case for far too little. Therefore, it is often a good idea for a workplace injury victim to speak with a lawyer who can advocate on their behalf and battle with the insurance company to get the full value of their claim. Otherwise, you risk having to shoulder the financial burden of your injuries.

To avoid that tragic situation, partner with a trusted lawyer who can help you gain a full understanding of the amount of money you need to collect to avoid paying even a penny out of your own pocket. Working with medical experts, your legal team can determine an accurate estimate of how much your future medical needs will cost and how long you will have to be out of work because of your injuries. Combining this together, you can get a much clearer picture of the full value of your claim and what it will cost to recover. 

Knowing this is vital information so that you can avoid financial hardship as a result of your workplace injury. Your employer is required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance for a reason. When you suffer an injury, even in specific situations when you are not on the clock, you could be entitled to benefits under your employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy. 

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Protect the Rights of Workers

All too often, people get injured at work and have their Workers’ Compensation claim denied. For many reasons, the insurance company will deny the claim, hoping that the worker simply goes away. If you are an injured worker, do not let the insurance company win. You have legal rights, and your legitimate Workers’ Compensation claim should be considered fairly. To explore your legal options, speak with the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will fight for you to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.