Bay Area Workers Ask the Expert — Jan. 2015

The Veen Firm proudly partners with the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council to provide legal help for Bay Area workers in the trades.Many complicated legal issues affect workers in our community. The Veen Firm is passionate about providing the education and resources needed to protect Bay Area workers.Real people submit questions, and the attorneys at The Veen Firm respond directly. This month’s expertise is provided by David L. Winnett.

I was severely injured when I was rear-ended while running an errand for my boss on my way home from work the other night. I’m afraid I may never be able to work again. Am I entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for my injuries? If I do receive workers’ compensation benefits, will I be prevented from suing the other driver?

Ordinarily, pursuant to the “Going and Coming Rule,” an employee is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if he or she is injured while driving to or from work. However, there have been several circumstances where employees injured while commuting to or from work were awarded workers’ compensation benefits. Those circumstances involved situations where the employer received some benefit – even an incidental benefit – from the employee’s use of his or her personal vehicle. Thus, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation coverage for your injuries, if your boss knew or expected that you would have to use your personal vehicle for the errand he asked you to run for him.Even more importantly, however, the fact that you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits does not necessarily prevent you from suing the driver who injured you. Although the workers’ compensation system is designed to provide necessary medical treatment and disability benefits to injured workers, it does not provide an injured worker with a full and complete recovery of emotional distress, pain and suffering and other similar damages suffered by an injured worker and his or her family. Those types of damages are only available in a lawsuit against the negligent driver.You should consult a civil attorney as soon as possible to explore the availability of workers’ compensation benefits and the possibility that you may also bring a civil lawsuit against the driver who injured you. There are important deadlines for both types of proceedings, so you should act quickly to protect your rights.-David L. Winnett; The Veen Firm, San Francisco, CA(Reposted from the San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council.)

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