I am often asked questions about accidents that occur while an employee is on a business trip/traveling for work. The statute itself does seem to be strict on compensability, but the caselaw has taken a much broader approach.
440.092(4) TRAVELING EMPLOYEES.—An employee who is required to travel in connection with his or her employment who suffers an injury while in travel status shall be eligible for benefits under this chapter only if the injury arises out of and in the course of employment while he or she is actively engaged in the duties of employment. This subsection applies to travel necessarily incident to performance of the employee’s job responsibility but does not include travel to and from work as provided in subsection (2).
However, the 1st DCA has found the following compensable:
Doing laundry on a business trip is compensable. The traveling employee is deemed to be in the continuous conduct of his employer’s business including those times when he is not actually at work but is engaged in normal and necessary activities. Jose Ramirez v. W.S. Farish, 855 So. 2d 1182 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003)
In another case, while on a layover, a flight attendant broke his nose playing basketball at a YMCA next to the hotel the employer provided. This was found to be compensable. “Exercise at a nearby facility, much like eating at a nearby restaurant, constitute activities within the course and scope of employment because they are all activities reasonably related to maintaining the employee’s health and personal comfort.” Gray v. Eastern Airlines, Inc., 475 So. 2d 1288 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985)
A traveling employee went with co-workers to play pool and eat wings at a sports bar prior to driving to dinner. On the way to dinner he was in a car accident, and the DCA deemed this compensable.
Even though “he was engaged in amusement activities immediately prior to the accident, he was still attending to a normal creature comfort and a reasonable necessity, driving to dinner, when he was injured. As a traveling construction worker, the employee was in continuous conduct of his employer’s business, even when he was not actually at work but was engaged in normal and necessary activities.”. Thompson v. Keller Foundations, 883 So. 2d 356 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004).
Here are a few examples of claims the 1st DCA found not compensable.
A claimant decided to travel a few days before a business trip to see a friend over the weekend. The employer agreed to pay for her flight and her expenses, but advised her she would be “on her own” until the workweek started. The claimant and her friend went to a nightclub, and at 2:00 a.m., she was struck by a car and killed. Although the Claimant was a traveling employee, when the accident occurred, she was in the city early for purely personal reasons and was engaged in person recreational activity. Houck v. Tarragon Management, Inc., 4 So.3d 73 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).
Flight attendant’s skiing injury while on 24– hour layover was not compensable even under personal comfort doctrine; attendant’s 58–mile skiing trip was purely private mission for amusement, had little relationship to normal creature comforts and comprehended necessities, and was not reasonable and foreseeable activity. Eastern Airlines v. Rigdon, 543 So.2d 822 (Fla 1st DCA 1989)
So, each case will be fact specific, but hopefully these cases will give you some guidance. Defenses such as idiopathic conditions, intoxication, deviation etc..may still apply.
As always, we are always available to go over any claims to steer you in the right direction.
Morgan Indek | Managing Partner