The Veen Firm has partnered with the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council to provide legal insight to Bay Area workers in the trades. Many complicated legal issues affect the people who work the hardest in our community. The Veen Firm is passionate about providing the education and resources needed to protect Bay Area workers. Real people submit their questions, and the attorneys at The Veen Firm respond directly to the community and the people who help build this beautiful city. This month’s expertise is provided by Kevin Lancaster and Anthony L. Label.
Q. I went back to a job site after hours to pick up some tools I forgot. The security guard let me in. While I was getting them, I fell through an unguarded floor penetration and was severely injured. Am I eligible for Workers’ Compensation even though I wasn’t on the clock? What about a civil lawsuit?
A. This is an interesting question. Normally, WCAB benefits are not paid to a worker when they are not “on the clock.” However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Examples include the “premises line” rule, where you may be in course and scope once you enter the work premises, or the “special errand” doctrine, where you may be in course and scope when performing an errand for your employer even though you are “off the clock.” What makes this a close call is the fact that you are on the jobsite and dealing with your tools – which could make this a compensable injury. You should speak with at qualified WCAB attorney immediately to fully analyze this issue. As for a civil lawsuit, you are generally precluded from suing your employer except in limited circumstances. However, if someone other than your employer was responsible for your injury (what we call a “third party”), you may also have a civil case. There are important differences between a WCAB case and a civil case. Your recovery in WCAB cases is limited, but it is “no-fault.” This means you only need to be hurt while working to recover, regardless of whether anyone negligently caused your injury. In a civil lawsuit, the areas of compensation are much broader and not as limited as in a WCAB case, but recovering those damages usually requires at least negligence. Remember, the time limits to file these actions are strict, you should talk to a WCAB attorney and a civil attorney immediately to have these issues analyzed including the limitations periods. –Anthony L. Label, Trial Team Leader; The Veen Firm, PC, San Francisco, CA –Kevin Lancaster, Trial Team Leader; The Veen Firm, PC, San Francisco, CA (Reposted from the San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council.)