Barkan Meizlish , May 14, 2015
Some states recognize a dual-intent, or dual-purpose doctrine when an employee is injured while traveling for both business and personal purposes. However, in a recent case, the Ohio Supreme Court clarified that the doctrine of dual intent does not apply in Ohio when determining whether an employee who is injured while traveling for both work and personal reasons is entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation. Instead, workers’ compensation benefits are only available for an injury that occurs in the course of and arising out of the person’s employment.
In Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Assn. of Mid-Ohio, Slip Opinion 2014-Ohio-4531, the claimant was employed as a nurse by the Visiting Nurse Association of Mid-Ohio (VNA) to provide home health care services to clients. The claimant frequently traveled to the homes of her patients, and sometimes stopped at the VNA office for job-related activities. On weekdays she was paid for travel time and mileage, minus the distance it took to go to and from VNA’s office. On weekends, the claimant was compensated for all travel time and mileage.
In January of 2011, on the way to her first patient’s home, the claimant drove her two children and two family friends to the mall. Before she was able to reach the mall, her car was rear-ended. The claimant sought workers’ compensation benefits for a neck sprain.
After several administrative and judicial decisions, the state appeals court found that the claimant would not have been at the accident site if she had not been engaged in work duties as she was on her way to her patient’s home and that, therefore, she was entitled to benefits. However, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed this decision.
As stated, when an employee is injured while traveling for both business and personal purposes, some jurisdictions recognize the dual-intent or dual-purpose doctrines. There, if an employee’s work creates the need for travel, then the employee is acting in the course of employment while traveling, even if he or she does a personal errand. However, Ohio courts have rejected this doctrine. See Cardwell v. Indus. Comm., 155 Ohio St. 466, 99 N.E.2d 306 (1951).
Therefore, if you are injured while traveling to or from work, you should immediately contact an attorney to get a better understanding of what your rights and remedies are. For a longer analysis of Friebel and a copy of the Ohio Supreme Court’s slip opinion, please visit: http://www.courtnewsohio.gov/cases/2014/SCO/1021/130892.asp#.VE49IfnF-uF.
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