In this podcast, BPC Lawyers’ Partner & Accredited Personal Injury Law Specialist, Scott Hall-Johnston discusses what you need to know if injured on your way to or from work.
A worker who is injured at work is entitled to compensation benefits including (subject to restrictions) payment of medical expenses, compensation for wage loss, and compensation for permanent impairment suffered.
But what about travelling to work? Are you covered?
Travel to and from work
Ordinarily, you will not be covered for travel to and from your home to your place of work. It did always used to be the case however, recent changes have restricted the scope of workers compensation; Section 10 Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW).
However, once you reach work, further travel during work hours can be covered.
Exception – Travelling to work/work site for work sake
As you can appreciate, workers compensation law must determine who is covered in all types of work. Some industries see workers travel straight from home out to a work site, or are road based, such as truck drivers.
It is to those types of working based situations that the law protects. What needs to be established is that there is a, “a real and substantial connection between the employment and the accident or incident out of which the personal injury arose.” Section 10 (3A) Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW).
It is well settled that a worker, during their employment, can be on a journey from a place of abode to a place of employment at the same time. For example, in the case of Hooke v Rolfe (1986) 7 NSWLR 40, the New South Wales Court of Appeal was under no hesitation to find that motor vehicle accident can have multiple purposes in the sense of being both for employment purposes and for travelling to or from places of abode.
Hence, if your job is one which by its very nature requires you to travel, or even better you’re paid to travel for work, then you may have a claim under a whole number of different provisions designed to grant a positive right to compensation: Harvard v Illawarra Meat Co Ltd  WCR 4 and Thompson v Lewisham Hospital  WCR 111.
We have run many of these cases with great success.
In the matter of Zammit v The Bush Doctor (NSW) Pty Limited (2014) (Unreported 14 September 2014), an employee was employed to attend various bush sites to use pesticide.
He was driving his own motor vehicle and suffered a crash when a spider climbed up his arm. He was taking tools and products (herbicide) to the work site where he was directed to go by his employer. He was paid an extra allowance for the travel.
Hence, the Senior Arbitrator (now Presidential member) Michael Snell (as in Maurino v Amberlor Pty Limited (1996) 14 NSWCCR 16) found in favour of the injured worker and found that this was not just a trip to work, but was a part of his work duties; thus, he was awarded workers compensation entitlements.
Many workers, like us lawyers, are office-based. We travel from home to work by car, bus, train, ferry, bike or even just using our legs. Many injuries are suffered on our way to work (many at no fault of our own).
Regrettably, most workers have lost their right to workers compensation in these circumstances.
However, there are exceptions. To know if you fall into one of these exceptions, we need to look at the whole work situation – your employment contract, what you’re paid for, duties performed and the reasons for your travel.