On December 9, 2015, the South Carolina Court of Appeals released an opinion denying workers’ compensation benefits to the family of former Spartan High and Clemson football star Brian Wofford. Wofford was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident on his way from his mother’s home to a city recreation center, as part of his job as superintendent of the Spartanburg Parks and Recreation Department. He made the trip in response to a request from the city aquatics director to get a key from the rec center, then meet her at the swim center to sign forms.
The case shows how hard it can be to get around South Carolina’s harsh “going and coming rule.” The rule denies workers compensation benefits for injuries sustained on the way or coming home from work in most cases. But it’s important to remember even if you don’t qualify for comp, you may well be able to file a claim for your injuries against the at-fault driver.
The Going And Coming Rule
The going and coming rule states an employee is generally ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits while going to or coming from the place he works. But as with many things in the law, there are exceptions. You may be covered by workers’ comp for a traffic accident if…
- Your employer provides transportation, or pays you for the time in transport.
- The route to work is inherently dangerous and is either the only way there, or the route has been built and is maintained by your employer.
- You get hurt near work on a route you’re required to use.
- Your employer requires you to do work-related duties on the way or coming home from work.
- You get hurt running a “special errand” for your employer.
The Wofford case involved the last two exceptions, called the “duty” exception and the “special errand” exception.
The Wofford Decision
The Court of Appeals ruled the duty exception did not apply because Wofford was merely on his way to work when the tragic fatal crash occurred.
The Court spent more time on the special errand exception. It cited a 1972 state Supreme Court case, Bickley v. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company, where the exception applied to provide benefits. That case also involved a tragic car crash. In that case, a power company employee got called to out-of-town emergency duty to repair power lines damaged in a storm. On the way home, he died in a fatal car accident. The Supreme Court gave his family workers’ compensation benefits under the special errand exception, apparently due to the emergency duty. The Supreme Court in that case also ruled the employee entitled to benefits because he made emergency calls or worked at times other than his regular working hours.
The Court of Appeals also cited another Supreme Court case involving a fatal automobile accident, called McDaniel v. Bus Terminal Restaurant Management Corp. The Supreme Court denied benefits for that employee because the crash occurred on the way home from an employee meeting. The Court ruled injuries related to normal, customary aspects of a job, like meetings, don’t count as special errands to give benefits.
Turning to Wofford’s case, the Court of Appeals ruled the special errand exception did not apply. They likened his case to McDaniel, concluding Wofford was on his way to work to do typical job duties like retrieving keys and signing forms.
Don’t Be Cut Off
If you or someone you know is the victim of a serious or fatal car accident related to work, don’t think your case is hopeless. You may fall under an exception providing workers’ compensation benefits. To find out, you’ll need an experienced workers compensation lawyer to help you. And even if you don’t qualify, if the accident’s not your fault, you qualify for compensation for your injuries from the at-fault driver’s insurance company—and maybe even your own.
Serious injury and death cases can be hard fought, complex, and emotionally draining for victims. Email us or start a live chat right where you are for a free meeting to develop the benefits you can get and maximize your compensation—without having to worry about being hounded or ignored by an insurance company that doesn’t care about you.