Accidents While the Employee Is Performing Personal Errands for The Employer in Louisiana Workers Compensation
Sometimes employers ask employees to perform personal errands for the employer or one of his representatives.
But if an employee is injured while performing a personal errand for the employer or one of the employer’s representatives (such as a manager), then typically the employee is entitled to full workers compensation benefits in Louisiana.
Usually, this issue revolves around whether the employee at the time of the errand was acting within the course of his employment. But there can be no question that an employee is within the course of his employment when the employee is acting pursuant to his employer’s direct orders.
So when an employee is following the direct order of a person in authority to perform a task outside of his normal employment duties for the benefit of his employer or of the supervisor and is injured in the course of that work, then this employee is entitled to full workers compensation benefits.
The rationale behind this rule is that the employer has an inherent power to enlarge the normal course of the employee’s employment by assigning particular tasks or duties, and in reality, the employee has no practical choice but to perform those assigned tasks.
And since the employee has little free choice in the matter, Louisiana courts wherever possible to find that the errand was related in some way to the employer’s business.
Even if the employee has completed the errand and is returning to the regular work premises, it may be found that he has resumed his employment in the business.
And even if the errand is of short duration and comes at a time when the employee might otherwise be idly standing by or enjoying a rest or recreation period, the employee is entitled to full workers compensation benefits
ACCIDENTS WHILE AN EMPLOYEE IS VOLUNTEERING SERVICES OUTSIDE OF USUAL DUTIES IN LOUISIANA WORKERS COMPENSATION
Where the employer directs his employee to perform some service outside the regular line of his duties, the employee is acting within the scope of his employment while he is obeying such orders and is therefore covered under workers compensation in Louisiana.
But also, in most jobs, the employer encourages its employees to assist and help out one another, especially when there is an emergency. In other words, the employer expects the employee to volunteer his help. And usually, the purpose of this volunteering is to help out the employer’s business.
Nonetheless, the employer’s workers compensation insurance company will very often try to any workers compensation benefits to an employee who is volunteering his help.
Fortunately, Louisiana workers compensation Courts often side with the employee on cases on volunteering, even when the employee volunteered his or her services in a different department or area of the business.
The courts are especially likely to find in favor of the employee when:
- The employee was acting pursuant to custom;
- The employee’s offered service was accepted by the employer or the employer’s representative; or
- The employee had gone outside the sphere of his authorized operations through mistake.
For example, in one case, a substitute teacher heard an announcement about a student style show and volunteered her assistance. This offered assistance was accepted, and she worked with the students after school on this project, even though she was not paid for her time. After this substitute teacher was injured while engaged in this assistance, the court awarded her full workers compensation benefits.
However, a Lousiana workers compensation Court will not award workers compensation benefits the employee acts in violation of the employer’s wishes or insists on doing prohibited work.
For example, an employee who is told not to use the employer’s truck for a particular task and proceeds to do so anyway and is injured will likely be denied workers compensation benefits.
ACCIDENTS DURING AN EMERGENCY OR ATTEMPTED RESCUE IN LOUISIANA WORKERS COMPENSATION
If an employee is injured while acting for the benefit of his employer during an emergency, Louisiana courts almost always award workers compensation benefits, even though the act of the employee might not bet a part of his or her regular duties.
If the employee is helping or rescuing another employee in an emergency, or is trying to save the property of his employer, he is acting within the course of his employment.
Typically in these case:
- The employee is trying to save himself or his property;
- The employee is trying to save a fellow employee;
- The employee is trying to save the employer’s property;
- The employee is trying to save the employer from bad public relations; or
- The employee is trying to save the employer from a possible lawsuit for damages.
At any rate, the bottom line here is that if an employee is injured while acting in an emergency or an attempted rescue, the employee will very likely be covered under Louisiana workers compensation.
Sometimes an employee will be injured while the employee has deviated or wandered from his or her course of employment.
Many times, these cases involve an employee using an employer’s vehicle, or at least being reimbursed for the use of his own vehicle, who has a specific job to do with the vehicle but deviates from it to deal with a personal matter.
Examples of such deviation or wandering include when:
- The employee deviates only briefly and only slightly in geographical terms, so that the entire deviation is insubstantial;
- The employee is injured while on the path of the employment mission before the employee reaches the intended deviation;
- The employee is injured while on the way out to the personal objective;
- The employee is injured while on the way back from the personal objective to the normal employment route;
- The employee is injured after the employee has rejoined the employment route; or
- The employee takes a less-than-direct route to the employment mission to accomplish the personal objective.
If the main purpose of an employee’s trip (even in the employee’s own vehicle) is rooted in the employment, usually the courts will award workers compensation benefits, even though the employee deviates from his or her work-related purpose.
But the employee will not always be covered by workers compensation. It really matters the specific facts of the case, and the specific judge deciding the case. That is because there are difficult questions being asked, such as: how long can one deviate, and how far, and yet remain within the course of employment? And there are no concrete specific answers to these questions.
Also, sometimes the employee’s injury occurs upon “re-entry” into the employment at the completion of a deviation for personal reasons. Almost always, the courts will side with the employee on these types of situations.
That is, where the employee has deviated from a business errand but has completed the deviation at the time of the incident in question, the employee is considered as having “re-entered” the course of employment, as thus is covered by Louisiana workers compensation.
When an employee goes outside of the rules of the job or violates the employer’s instructions, the employee risks losing workers compensation benefits if he or she is injured.
Minor infractions or violations of rules or instructions are to be expected of the average employee and will most often not cause a loss of workers compensation benefits.
But if the employee goes so far outside of the rules of the job that it appears that the employee intended to ignore his employment rules or instructions, then it becomes likely that the employee will not be covered by workers compensation if the employee is injured while violating the employer’s rules or instructions.
Yet an employee who accidentally violates rules or instructions will not likely lose workers compensation benefits if he or she is injured. For example, a cleaning woman who is instructed to clean only the upstairs light fixtures, but misunderstands and is injured while cleaning the downstairs fixtures as well, will not be denied workers compensation benefits.
Of course, there can be a very fine line between intentional violation of instructions rules, and violations that simply amount to carelessness in the workplace. But when in doubt, Louisiana workers compensation courts tend to side with the employee.
THE LOUISIANA STATUTE ON ACCIDENTS IN THE COURSE AND SCOPE OF EMPLOYMENT IN LOUISIANA WORKERS COMPENSATION
The primary Louisiana statute on accidents in the course and scope of employment is La. R.S. 23:1031, which reads as follows:
§1031. Employee’s right of action; joint employers, extent of liability; borrowed employees
A. If an employee not otherwise eliminated from the benefits of this Chapter receives personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, his employer shall pay compensation in the amounts, on the conditions, and to the person or persons hereinafter designated.
B. In case any employee for whose injury or death payments are due is, at the time of the injury, employed and paid jointly by two or more employers subject to the provisions of this Chapter, such employers shall contribute to such payments in proportion to their several wage liabilities to the employee; but nothing in this Section shall prevent any arrangement between the employers for different distribution, as between themselves, of the ultimate burden of such payments. If one or more but not all the employers are subject to this Chapter, then the liability of such of them as are so subject shall be to pay that proportion of the entire payments which their proportionate wage liability bears to the entire wages of the employee; but such payment by the employers subject to this Chapter shall not bar the right of recovery against any other joint employer.
C. In the case of any employee for whose injury or death payments are due and who is, at the time of the injury, employed by a borrowing employer in this Section referred to as a “special employer”, and is under the control and direction of the special employer in the performance of the work, both the special employer and the immediate employer, referred to in this Section as a “general employer”, shall be liable jointly and in solido to pay benefits as provided under this Chapter. As between the special and general employers, each shall have the right to seek contribution from the other for any payments made on behalf of the employee unless there is a contract between them expressing a different method of sharing the liability. Where compensation is claimed from, or proceedings are taken against, the special employer, then, in the application of this Chapter, reference to the special employer shall be substituted for reference to the employer, except that the amount of compensation shall be calculated with reference to the earnings of the employee under the general employer by whom he is immediately employed. The special and the general employers shall be entitled to the exclusive remedy protections provided in R.S. 23:1032.
D. An injury by accident shall not be considered as having arisen out of the employment and is thereby not covered by the provisions of this Chapter if the injured employee was engaged in horseplay at the time of the injury.
E. An injury by accident should not be considered as having arisen out of the employment and thereby not covered by the provisions of this Chapter if the employer can establish that the injury arose out of a dispute with another person or employee over matters unrelated to the injured employee’s employment.
Acts 1989, No. 454, §2, eff. Jan. 1, 1990; Acts 1997, No. 315, §1, eff. June 17, 1997.