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Coming and Going Rule

Winters in Northern Ohio can be long and brutal. Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures may create hazardous conditions in parking lots and on walkways. This past winter, a client slipped on snow in his employer’s parking lot, sustaining injuries extending from his neck down to his low back. Soon after the accident, he filed an industrial claim through the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

To this injured worker’s surprise, his claim was denied. He was mystified. As the fall occurred in his employer’s parking lot while he was reporting to work for the day, shouldn’t it be covered?

The claim was denied due to a limitation in workers’ compensation law known as the Coming and Going Rule. The Coming and Going Rule permits the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to deny benefits for an injury that occurs while an employee is arriving at, or leaving, his or her workplace. It applies to an employee who has a fixed and limited place of employment and can mean that an employer is not held liable for injuries during the employee’s commute.

Even if you have fallen walking in or out of work, however, this rule should not dissuade you from filing a claim. Ohio recognizes three exceptions to the Coming and Going Rule.

The first exception is the “Zone of Employment” exception. This covers injuries that occur once the employee has stepped onto the employer’s property, even if the injury occurs while the worker is coming or going for the day.

The second exception is the “Special Hazard” exception. To satisfy this exception, the employee must demonstrate that he was at the place of injury due to his employment. The more challenging aspect of this exception, though, is that he must also prove that the substance that caused him to fall on the employer’s property is much worse than the substance on public roads. This can be difficult to prove and makes this exception’s criteria the most difficult to meet.

The third exception is the “Totality of the Circumstances” test or the “Umbrella” test. In this instance, the employee must demonstrate that:

  1. The place of the fall was close in distance to the place of employment,
  2. The employer had control over the place of injury, and
  3.  The employer benefited from the employee being at the location where the accident occurred.

In the example of our client, he worked at a factory. He reported to this factory every day, parking in the only lot available for employees and which is owned by the employer. The client had gone out to his car in search of protective ear plugs, which are required in the factory. As he was walking back to the factory, he slipped and fell on snow. Does he have a valid claim?

Upon first review, because the injured worker had a fixed place of employment at the factory and was injured walking into work, it seems the Coming and Going Rule may apply. However, consider the exceptions. First, the client was in the factory’s parking lot when he fell, which is the employer’s property and therefore within the “Zone of Employment,” meeting the criteria for that exception. Second, in considering the “Totality of the Circumstances,” we see that:

  1. The parking lot is connected to the factory and therefore, close in distance,
  2. The employer owns the lot, and thus is in control of the place of injury, and
  3. The injured worker was retrieving his ear plugs to perform his job, a benefit to the employer.

All of these factors meet the requirements of the “Umbrella” test exception as well. Our client should have a claim.

If you are injured on your way to work or at your workplace, our office can evaluate your individual circumstances and help you understand the full extent of workers’ compensation laws. Accidents cannot always be avoided, but we can ensure you receive the benefits you deserve. Contact us at info@spitlerwilliams-young.law or 419-242-1555.

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