Kentucky high court upholds decision for truck crash injuries

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that a worker was entitled to benefits for his injuries as a result of a car accident that occurred while returning from a job site at his employer’s property.

Dee Whitaker Concrete has a store located next to the owner’s home in Smithfield, Kentucky. Its employees meet in the workshop on working mornings to obtain tools, then move on to the construction sites. Employees are paid from the time they arrive at the shop until the job is completed at the end of the day.

On August 4, 2017, Austin Ellison was returning from a construction site in a truck belonging to the company owner’s son, Dee Whitaker, when he left the road and rolled over. Mr. Ellison, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle and suffered multiple injuries.

Mr. Ellison filed a workers’ compensation claim, which Whitaker Concrete contested. An administrative law judge concluded that he was entitled to temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits and medical benefits.

The state Workers’ Compensation Board upheld, as did the Court of Appeals.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has held that, generally, injuries sustained by workers while traveling to or returning from the place where they regularly perform the duties of their employment are not deemed to arise out of and in the course of the employment, because the risks usually encountered during such trips are not incidental to the employer’s activity.

This rule is subject to several exceptions, however, the court said.

The first is the traveling employee doctrine, which considers an injury that occurs while the employee is traveling to be work-related, unless the worker significantly deviates from the purpose of the trip.

There is a second exception if the injury occurs while commuting from work to home if the journey is part of the service for which the worker is employed or otherwise benefits the employer.

The court said both exceptions applied in this case because Mr Ellison’s work required travel outside the employer’s premises to various job sites.

The trip on the day of the accident was “a necessary and unavoidable act of returning from the out-of-town job site and was necessitated by the pursuit of the employer’s business interests,” the court said. “Ellison’s job was the reason for his presence in what turned out to be a dangerous place.”

The court also said that Mr Ellison’s trip from the employer’s premises was a service rendered to the employer and benefited him by furthering his business.

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