By Andrew R. Bronsnick
To qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey, you must demonstrate two things—that you were injured and that the injury occurred while you were “at work.” Often, there’s no real question that the injury was work-related—you suffer an injury in a workplace accident or you contract an illness caused by exposure to toxic substances at your place of employment. But there are instances where there may legitimate questions about whether the injury was work-related.
Injuries You Incur On A Break
Under applicable labor laws, most workers are entitled to regular breaks, including lunch breaks. You are not technically working, so can you still recover compensation for injuries that occur during a break?
As a general rule, yes, you can file a workers’ compensation claim if you are hurt during a break, provided you stay on company property and use company facilities. If you leave work to go to lunch and slip and fall at a restaurant, there’s probably no right to workers’ compensation benefits, unless you can show that you went to the restaurant under instructions from a supervisor to get food for co-workers. If you are injured in the company cafeteria, you will typically qualify for workers’ compensation.
Injuries While Traveling
Technically, when you are commuting to and from work, you are not on the job. Any injuries sustained in a car accident or other mishap on a commute are generally not covered by workers’ compensation, unless you made a detour at the request of a supervisor to conduct some work-related business.
If you are on the road for your job, as a traveling salesperson or attending meetings or conferences, any injuries suffered while you are on your way to or from business-related activities are generally covered. However, if you engage in wholly or primarily personal activities—suppose you stop to purchase some groceries or a tool, which may be considered outside the scope of your employment, and you may not be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits.