Recently an injured worker contacted our workers compensation law office with questions about the insurance carrier’s denial of her injury sustained while on a business trip for her employer. This situation arises from time to time, so this post is intended to provide some insight into the application of what is known under California law as the Commercial Traveler’s Rule. The facts in this post have been changed to protect the injured worker’s privacy and to better illustrate this important legal principle. Every person’s case is different, and these Commercial Traveler’s Rule cases are very fact-specific, so it is best to discuss your particular situation with a Santa Rosa workers compensation lawyer and not rely on this post as to whether your particular case is compensable under the rule.
In our hypothetical example, the employee was sent by her employer to a business convention in another part of the state. After the business meeting sessions a group of employees decided to go out to dinner at a restaurant approximately one and a half miles from their hotel. After dinner they walked as a group from the restaurant down the road back towards the hotel. Several members of the group decided to rent bicycles from a street vendor rather than walking the remaining distance back to the hotel. Our hypothetical employee was injured when her bicycle’s front wheel struck an object on the roadway and she fell. The workers compensation insurance carrier denied the injury claim, asserting that by renting a bicycle the employee had ‘diverted’ from the business purpose of the trip.
The Commercial Traveler’s Rule is quite broad in its application and holds that generally an employee on a business trip is within the course and scope of employment for the entire business trip, which includes going out to dinner and similar activities. Exceptions to the rule have been found by courts to exist where the employee diverts from the business purpose of the trip to such an extent that the ‘diversion’ is deemed significant. So in our hypothetical example the workers compensation appeals board would hold a hearing and determine whether renting a bicycle rather than walking the rest of the way back to the hotel was a significant diversion rendering the claim non-compensable.
Contact the Law Offices of Marc Francis in Sonoma County for a consultation on the particular facts of your case.