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Determining if an injury is work-related when it happens offsite

When people think of work-related accidents eligible for workers' compensation benefits, they often imagine a straightforward situation, like getting hit by a falling object in a supply closet. However, not all work-related accidents are this simple.

For instance, what if a person is hurt at a hotel late at night while on a business trip? What if an employee is in a car accident driving home from a late shift, or attacked while walking into work? Would workers' compensation be available under these circumstances?

To understand if benefits may be available in these situations, it is important to understand what the law says about workers' compensation in New Jersey. One critical element is the specification that to be compensable, an injury must arise "in the course of employment". 

The law makes several clarifications of what this means. Two especially important specifications include requirements that an employee be:

  • At work (not driving to work or returning home)
  • Engaged in direct performance of job duties as assigned by the employer

However, in the case of traveling for work, a worker may be covered by workers' compensation if at the time of the accident, he or she was:

  • A police officer, firefighter or rescue personnel traveling to or from an emergency
  • Riding to or from work as part of a ridesharing arrangement in a vehicle contracted, leased or owned by the employer
  • Required to ride in a ridesharing vehicle by the employer as a condition of a person's employment
  • Away from the workplace performing job duties as instructed by the employer

In other words, an injured worker may be eligible for benefits if an accident occurred away from a workplace, but only if specific elements are in place. And establishing these elements can be a challenge when a person was away from the job site, which can lead to increased scrutiny of the circumstances.

Understand that this is a broad explanation of the state workers' compensation laws and specifications; there are exceptions and details that can affect individual claims. As such, any worker injured while away from a workplace would be wise to discuss the circumstances of a specific accident and their legal options with an attorney.

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