ALTHOUGH INJURY IN A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT ON THE WAY TO WORK IS USUALLY NOT COVERED BY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION, HERE THE “SPECIAL ERRAND” EXCEPTION APPLIED BECAUSE CLAIMANT, A POLICE OFFICER, WAS ENGAGED IN AN INVESTIGATION AND ON HIS WAY TO PICK UP A POLICE VEHICLE WHEN THE ACCIDENT OCCURRED (THIRD DEPT).
The Third Department, reversing the Workers’ Compensation Board, determined the “special errand” exception applied and claimant, who was injured on his way to the police precinct after being called to investigate a grand larceny, was entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. Although injury on the way to work is usually not covered, here claimant had already coordinated an investigation into the grand larceny and was on his way to pick up his police vehicle at the time of the traffic accident:
At the hearing, there was testimony from the employer’s witness that claimant’s shift and overtime pay did not begin until claimant arrived at the police station and checked out a police vehicle. Even if true, however, these facts are not dispositive of whether the special errand exception applies. Irrespective of when claimant’s overtime pay began, the record reflects that claimant was contacted at 4:15 a.m., at which time claimant began his command and coordination of the criminal investigation of the grand larceny. It was at this point that claimant was engaged in a special errand, as he was then required to report to work early in order to pick up a police vehicle so that he could proceed directly to the crime scene in that vehicle. Although claimant testified that he traveled to the police station along his “usual geographical” route, the work-related activity that claimant was encouraged/required by his employer to do and performed for the employer’s benefit upon being called in early while on standby required claimant to “alter[ ] the usual . . . temporal scheme of travel, thereby altering the risks to which [claimant was] usually exposed during normal travel” (Matter of Neacosia v New York Power Auth., 85 NY2d at 479 …). The Board identified the correct standard articulated by the Court of Appeals but misapplied the special errand exception by overlooking the altered temporal scheme of claimant’s travel and significance of the work-related activity performed by claimant for the employer’s benefit upon being contacted by the employer while on standby … . Matter of Serrata v Suffolk County Police Dept., 2023 NY Slip Op 02725, Third Dept 5-18-23
Practice Point: Injury in a traffic accident on the way to work is not covered by Workers’ Compensation. Here, however,, the “special errand” exception applied because claimant, a police officer, was engaged in an ongoing investigation and was driving to the precinct to pick up his police vehicle when the accident occurred.
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