Injured Off the Clock: Can You Still Get Worker’s Comp?

person with an injured hand and getting bandaged

Every morning, you commute to your workplace and clock in. When your shift is over, you clock out and head home. Most of the time, this routine is fairly predictable and uneventful. But what if something goes wrong and you get injured while you’re off the clock? 

 

For example, what if you stop on your way to work to buy a pizza to celebrate your boss’s birthday and you get hit by a car outside the pizza place? What if you get injured playing a pick-up basketball game with your coworkers at a work event? Just one small incident can change your life and cause you tremendous physical, psychological, and financial hardship.

 

But if your injury occurs outside of your usual work hours, are you still protected by workers’ compensation insurance? Our experienced attorneys at RGMR are breaking down everything you need to know.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

In Oregon and every other state aside from Texas, employers are mandated by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp is designed to protect workers who get injured on the job from the financial hardships that result from their injuries. Workers’ comp benefits may include:

 

 

So if you sustain a herniated disk while lifting a heavy piece of equipment or develop carpal tunnel syndrome due to a repetitive motion at work, you can file a workers’ compensation claim to receive benefits to help you cope with your injury.

Understanding Employer Liability in Workers’ Comp Cases

person driving a car

Workers’ compensation covers work-related injuries and illnesses. But “work-related” can be a tricky term to define. Most states, including Oregon, follow a “going and coming” or “portal to portal” rule. Under this law, workers’ compensation protection begins when an employee arrives at their workplace and ends when they leave the office at the end of the day.

 

Consequently, injuries that occur during daily commutes and lunch breaks may or may not qualify an individual for compensation. For example, if you twist your ankle outside a deli during a break or you’re injured in a car accident while carpooling with your coworker to lunch, your case may result in a denied claim. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not entitled to compensation. It just means your case is more complicated and you likely need the help of a workers’ comp attorney to determine whether or not you’re covered. 

 

In many cases, off-the-clock claims involve debates about:

  • Work premises: Where does your employer’s property begin and end? For example, do the sidewalks outside your workplace constitute “work premises”?
  • Work duties: What qualifies as a work task? Is picking up lunch for your coworkers a work duty? What about filing papers in your home office after work hours?

Exceptions For Off-the-Clock Injuries

While workers’ compensation doesn’t usually cover injuries sustained off-the-clock, there are a few exceptions. Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may still qualify for coverage even if you weren’t clocked in. Here are some examples of off-the-clock exceptions:

Sidewalks and Parking Lots

In many cases, workers’ comp coverage starts when you step foot on your employer’s premises, rather than the moment you punch in on your time clock. Your employer’s property doesn’t just mean the building itself. It also includes sidewalks, parking lots, and grassy areas that are owned and maintained by your employer. In a sense, these areas are considered an extension of the workplace.

For example, if you’re heading to your car after work and you slip on an icy walkway your employer failed to maintain, you would still qualify for workers’ comp. As long as the injury occurs on the premises, you’re entitled to benefits even if you weren’t on the clock.

Tasks That Benefit Your Employer 

If your employer requires you to perform a duty that directly benefits them or their company, then an injury sustained during that duty would still be covered through workers’ comp regardless of the location. 

Let’s say your boss asks you to attend a dinner with a new client. You head to the restaurant, have a nice meal, and talk shop for an hour or two. But on the drive home, you get into a car accident that results in a serious injury. Because you were performing a task that directly benefited your employer, you would still qualify for workers’ comp regardless of the location or the fact that your injury was caused by a third party.

However, this exemption doesn’t apply to every situation. For example, if you had a few drinks at dinner and drove while intoxicated, your injury would not be covered. Workers’ comp does not cover injuries sustained due to criminal activity on your part – including a DUI conviction. Even though you were doing a favor for your boss, your misconduct would disqualify you from benefits.

Running Errands

If you’re like most workers, you probably have a pretty regular routine for your workdays. Perhaps you head to work in the morning, clock in, check your email, and attend a few meetings before clocking out for your lunch break. Then you might head to a sandwich shop to pick up your favorite combo before heading back to work.

But let’s say before you head out, your boss asks you to drop off the mail and pick up a coffee for them on your way back. As you make the drive back to the office, you spill your boss’s coffee on your lap. The coffee was unusually hot, resulting in serious burns.

In most cases – unless you were on work premises at the time – injuries that occur during an authorized break (including lunch) would not qualify for coverage. But if you were running an extra errand for your employer at the time of the injury, you could still receive benefits.

After-Hour Duties

Say you clock in at 8am every morning and clock out at 5pm every afternoon. But what if your work duties don’t end when you typically clock out for the day? For example, a server at a restaurant may be asked to stay after hours to clean and lock up. Regardless of your typical work hours, any injuries that occur while performing work duties – whether you’re “on-the-clock” or not – are still covered under workers’ comp.

What To Do If You Get Injured Off the Clock

patient talking to a doctor about her injury

If you sustain an injury while you’re off the clock, here are some of the first steps you should take:

1. Report your injury.

Notify your employer immediately, even if you don’t think your injury will qualify for workers’ comp. If possible, try to do this in writing so you have a record of what happened.

2. Seek medical treatment.

Get in to see a medical provider of your choosing to receive treatment and follow-up care. Follow your provider’s advice and keep a record of all your appointments, tests, and prescriptions related to the injury.

Related: Understanding How Medical Evaluations Impact Workers’ Comp

3. Document the details of the injury. 

Write down everything you remember about the incident, including when, where, and how it happened as well as any possible witnesses of the event. Also, keep a folder of any written documentation related to the injury that could support your claim.

4. Seek help from a qualified workers’ comp attorney.

It’s important to find a lawyer with extensive experience in workers’ compensation cases, since they’ll have in-depth knowledge of the system and how off-the-clock injury claims differ from other claims. They can help you determine if you qualify and navigate the system. If your employer doesn’t have insurance or tries to deny you the benefits you need and deserve, an attorney can help you determine the next steps to take.

Related: Workers’ Comp Claims Process in Oregon

If You’ve Sustained an Off-the-Clock Injury, RGMR Can Help You Get the Benefits You Deserve

law justice with scales

Whether you’re clocked in or not, a work-related injury can be devastating for your professional and personal life. Unfortunately, employers and insurance companies will often use unfair tactics to deny you coverage, especially if you weren’t technically on the clock at the time. But depending on your situation, an off-the-clock injury may still entitle you to workers’ comp benefits

At Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin, and Ratliff, LLP, our experienced attorneys will fight for you every step of the way. With over 70 years of combined experience in workers’ comp law in Oregon, we know the system inside and out. We’re here to listen to your story and provide you with the fierce legal representation you need to get the benefits you’re entitled to.

Contact us online or call (800) 371-3664 to set up a free consultation and tell us about your case.

Adian Martin

Adian Martin (JD) is an accomplished attorney with over 25 years of experience. His goal is to use his legal expertise and passion for problem-solving to help people get the benefits and proper compensation they deserve after an injury. He received his law degree from Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College and is currently a partner at Ransom Gilbertson Martin & Ratliff. In his spare time, Adian enjoys exploring the outdoors with his dog and bicycling.

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