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When Does Workers’ Compensation Apply to Traffic Accidents?

workers compensation traffic accidents

If you’re like most people, you associate workers’ compensation claims with slips, falls, and other injuries on the job site. Workers’ compensation is designed to provide employees who are injured at work with a source of income and some help paying injury-related medical bills while they recover.

But in some situations, workers’ compensation may also apply to injuries an employee suffers in a traffic accident. Though accidents that occur on the way to or from work are generally the employee’s responsibility, it’s important for anyone who has been injured in a traffic accident while engaged in work-related travel to investigate their options and determine whether a workers’ compensation claim is viable.

Below, we discuss Nevada’s workers’ compensation laws, how they can apply after a traffic accident, and what injured employees should do to protect their rights.

Workers’ Compensation Under Nevada Law

Nevada requires all employers with more than one employee to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. When a workers’ compensation claim is made, the employer’s policy pays out; and if an employer has a higher-than-average number of claims, their insurance rate is likely to increase. This means that workers’ compensation funds aren’t coming directly out of an employer’s pocket in the same way wages and benefits are, but they can be indirectly impacted by each workers’ compensation claim that is filed.

Other employers may fall into a workers’ compensation exemption. Though these employers are still required to compensate injured employees for harm they’ve suffered on the job, the claims process can be different (and sometimes more complex).

Making a Workers’ Compensation Claim

If you’ve suffered a work-related injury and want to pursue workers’ compensation benefits, it’s crucial to inform your employer immediately so that the accident can be reported to the workers’ compensation provider. Many of these providers have strict rules and time limits that can void a claim if it’s not reported in a timely manner.

To file a workers’ compensation claim, an injured employee will need to take the following steps:

  • For Nevada businesses that carry workers’ compensation insurance, the injured employee will need to file a Form C-1 (“Notice of Injury or Occupational Disease”) with their employer within one week of the incident or injury.
  • If medical treatment is necessary, the injured employee must also fill out and file with their employer a Form C-4 (“Employee’s Compensation Report of Initial Treatment”).
  • When seeking medical treatment, the employee should notify their physician that they plan to seek workers’ compensation benefits for the injury. This will affect the way your physician fills out certain forms, and your physician may also need to fill out a portion of the C-4 form.

Although the C-1 form must be submitted within a week of the injury, an injured employee has up to 90 days to submit the C-4 form. It’s a good idea to get this form completed early, as waiting until the last minute could leave one scrambling to meet the deadline. On the other hand, not all injuries are immediately apparent, and waiting a few weeks to a month or more before filing a C-4 can ensure that this form accurately reflects the full scope of injuries sustained.

Workers’ Compensation for Auto Accidents

Many employees—from defense attorneys interviewing clients in jail to insurance agents traveling to have documents signed—are required to drive as a condition of their job. And if an employee is injured in an accident while traveling on the job, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

On the other hand, an employee’s commute to work generally isn’t considered working time, so accidents that take place on your way to or from the job site fall outside the workers’ compensation umbrella.

However, many situations aren’t so cut-and-dried. There are cases in which an employee injured on their drive to work could have a valid workers’ compensation claim, as well as situations in which on-the-job injuries are excluded. This is why it’s always important to talk over your case with an attorney before ruling out any options.

What Is Considered “On the Job”?

Under Nevada law, to recover workers’ compensation damages for an auto accident (or any other type of accident), you’ll need to show that the injuries you suffered occurred within “the scope of your employment.” This can encompass any task considered to be a critical part of your job or an action that your employer directed you to do.

Some examples include:

  • Making a delivery after being directed to do so by your manager
  • Traveling from your normal job site to another job site during the workday
  • Driving a coworker for business-related reasons
  • Running an errand related to work, like picking up office supplies or dropping off a parcel to be mailed

Determining whether workers’ compensation applies to accidents that happen while traveling for work—such as driving to the airport to hop a plane to a conference—can be tricky. It may depend on what instructions you were given by your employer, whether the travel was solely for work purposes or had a personal component, and even whether you were traveling with any coworkers at the time.

For jobs that largely consist of driving—like delivery drivers, over-the-road (OTR) truckers, taxi drivers, and other professional drivers—workers’ compensation can come into play if an accident occurs during general work hours.

Actions That Fall Outside the Scope of Employment

Not all accidents are considered to be within the scope of employment, even if they occur while on the job and during work hours.

  • If you’re intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when you’re involved in an accident, it’s unlikely to be covered. Using illicit drugs or driving while intoxicated during work hours is not an activity performed at your employer’s direction, and therefore falls outside the scope of employment. Your employer may require you to take a drug or alcohol test when you file a workers’ compensation form.
  • If you’re deviating from your work duties, like running a personal errand after finishing some work-related errands, you may not be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits.

Does It Matter Which Driver is at Fault?

Nevada is an at-fault state, which means that in personal injury cases, the at-fault driver (or their insurance company) is legally responsible for covering the other driver’s damages. But workers’ compensation is a no-fault component of the insurance system, which means you don’t need to prove that the other driver was at fault for your injuries. And even if you were responsible for the accident, unless you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs (or otherwise breaking the law) at the time, this shouldn’t be counted against you in the workers’ compensation context.

Can You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit and Workers’ Comp Claim?

In some situations, you may want to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover damages for your injuries, property damage, and costs of future care. However, filing a third-party personal injury claim and pursuing workers’ compensation damages for the same accident can present some complications.

If you receive workers’ comp benefits and then recover injury damages separately, you may be required to reimburse the workers’ compensation carrier for some of the benefits you’ve received. And because recovering personal injury damages will require you to show that the other driver was at fault, it can be a more difficult claim to pursue than a no-fault workers’ compensation claim. Ultimately, the right path will depend on factors like:

  • How serious your injuries are
  • The amount of time you’ll need to spend off work
  • What you were doing when the accident occurred
  • Whether fault is clear or can be easily proven
  • Whether your employer has workers’ compensation coverage

Only after considering each of these factors should you decide how you’d like your claim to proceed. In some cases, it may make sense to recover workers’ compensation damages now and repay them later after receiving a personal injury settlement; in other cases, it may be a better choice to bypass the workers’ compensation process entirely. And in yet other cases, workers’ compensation may present the best option for a complete financial recovery.

Talk to An Attorney About Your Car Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident while on the job, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation damages for your injuries, lost wages, and other accident-related expenses. But this process can be complicated and often involves a lot of moving parts. If you miss an important deadline for seeking workers’ compensation benefits (or filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver), your claim could be barred—even if liability for your injuries is clear.

Talking to an experienced Nevada workers’ compensation attorney before taking any legal action or accepting a settlement offer can be the best way to assess your rights, your obligations, and the best way forward for you and your loved ones.