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Injuries at holiday parties may not be covered by workers' comp

As many of our Ohio readers already know, an employee who suffers a work-related injury while on the job is entitled to benefits through workers' compensation. These benefits can help cover the medical costs associated with treating and recovering from an injury and can help mitigate the impact of lost wages as well.

But as some of you may have discovered, there are certain times when it's difficult to determine whether an injury is work-related or not. This can happen when the employee is not technically on the clock but is attending a work-related function. It creates a grey area for many workers, further complicating matters and often raising the question: is this injury eligible for compensation?

We can best highlight the issues raised by work-related functions by showing you a case out of another state. Although their workers' compensation laws may be different from our own, we do have similar definitions for what qualifies as a work-related injury and what does not. And as you can imagine, the difference between a workplace injury and one that is not can also mean the difference between receiving benefits or not.

According to the case, two workers applied for workers' compensation benefits after suffering injuries in a car accident on a return trip from their company's holiday lunch. One of the workers' injuries were so severe that he was paralyzed from the chest down. Especially in his case, workers' compensation would be incredibly helpful.

But both of their claims were denied because of how their state defines a work-related injury. One of the things that was pointed out by the court was that neither employee was required to attend the company lunch. Because attendance was optional, it did not qualify as a work obligation. It's quite possible too that neither employee was considered "on the clock" at the time of the accident, meaning their injuries might not have been classified as work related on these grounds either.

Although the court pointed out other reasons why the claims were denied, the issue mentioned above regarding work functions and time on the job seemed most important to point out to our readers because it is a complicated set of circumstances that could easily present problems for residents here in Columbus as well. Different laws could mean a different outcome though, which is why seeking the help of a lawyer is so important.

Sources: Courthouse News Service, "Crash Victim Cannot Collect Workers' Comp," Jeff D. Gorman, Aug. 6, 2014  

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, "Rules, Statutes, Executive Orders and Public Hearings," Accessed Aug. 15, 2014

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