Are you covered by worker’s compensation if you work from home?
The number of people working from home has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic. Last June, a study from Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research showed that 42 percent of workers in the US were working from home full time.
In 2021, the number of employees who work from home permanently is expected to double worldwide.
How does this affect worker’s compensation coverage? Below, we will look at when you are covered, and when you are not covered, by worker’s compensation if you work from home.
Does Worker’s Compensation Cover Me If I Work from Home?
The same rules apply to workers’ compensation coverage whether you work from home or work at a job site or office. How those rules apply to different situations may complicate things, though.
What Does Worker’s Compensation Cover if I Work from Home?
Off-site injuries are covered by worker’s comp if they are accidental injuries “arising out of and in the course of employment,” whether you are making a delivery, picking up supplies, or working from home on your computer.
First, you must be an “employee” as defined by SC’s worker’s compensation laws – independent contractors or “casual employees” do not qualify.
The injury must have been an accident – “injury” for purposes of worker’s compensation is defined as “only injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment.”
If you’re “on the clock,” and the thing that you were doing at the moment of the accident was something that you would be expected to do in the course of your employment, you are most likely covered by worker’s compensation.
Examples of Covered Injuries
Some examples of injuries that might be covered by worker’s compensation if you work from home include:
- You develop carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of typing and working on a computer;
- You are in an automobile accident while you are driving to the office to pick up paperwork;
- You trip over a computer cord while rushing to answer a call from the boss;
- Your computer chair breaks, and you suffer a back injury in the fall; or
- You are electrocuted by your work computer.
What Doesn’t Worker’s Compensation Cover if I Work from Home?
Whether you are working at home or on the job site, you are not covered by worker’s comp if:
- You are not an employee (for example, you are an independent contractor or casual employee);
- The injury did not happen in the course of your employment;
- You are claiming a mental health injury with no accompanying physical injury; or
- You were intoxicated at the time of the injury.
In many cases when an injury is not covered, it is because the accident did not “arise out of and in the course of employment.”
For example, if you are injured while taking a break – even if you work from home – you may be covered under what is called the “personal comfort doctrine.” Getting a drink of water from the kitchen, using the bathroom, or smoking a cigarette on the front porch are all normal activities that are expecting during the course of a workday.
On the other hand, if you engage in activities while you are on your break that would not be expected in the ordinary course of your employment – getting into a fistfight, for example – worker’s compensation is probably not going to cover your injuries.
Examples of Injuries that are Not Covered
Examples of injuries that worker’s compensation may not cover if you work from home include:
- You are cleaning your gun and accidentally shoot yourself;
- You slip and fall because you were drinking tequila shots while you were working;
- You finished your work for the day and then slip and fall while cooking dinner for the kids; or
- You take a lunch break and are involved in an accident at the McDonald’s restaurant down the road.
Insurance Companies and Their Attorneys Will Attempt to Deny or Limit Your Claim
Insurance defense attorneys may argue that you are not entitled to compensation when you work from home. In response, your attorney will need to understand the law and how it applies to the specific facts of your situation.
For example, we have seen an insurance defense attorney claim that, where a remote worker trips over her cat and falls while rushing to answer a phone call from the office, the worker’s resulting injury is not covered because the cat caused the fall.
Worker’s compensation is no-fault compensation – it’s not like comparative negligence for not securing your cat will prevent or reduce your recovery. If you can have your pet in the workplace, and you trip and fall over the cat while doing your job, your injury should be covered. It is no different if you work from home.
If you are working from home, it is not unexpected that you will have pets in your home. If you are rushing to answer a call from work, that is absolutely in the course and the scope of your employment, and a trip and fall – whether it is due to a cat or a computer cord – should be compensable.
If you are injured while working from home, your workers’ compensation attorney at Axelrod and Associates can help you to determine whether you are entitled to compensation, whether any third parties may be liable, file your claim, and represent you at any hearings or appeals that are necessary to get full compensation for your injuries.