“The Road Not Taken”: Colorado Claimant Seeks Additional Compensation For Injuries Sustained on “Longer” Route to Medical Appointment by Tom Robinson, JD. primary upkeep writer for Workers’ Compensation Law Center powered by Larson’s, the leading authority on workers’ compensation law.
Here’s What Happened
Claimant, a resident of Gypsum, Colorado, employed by Western Eagle Ambulance District, required knee replacement surgery to treat an admitted industrial injury he had sustained in 2003. While claimant was on vacation in Reno, Nevada, he learned that there was an earlier opening in the surgeon’s schedule and that he needed to return to Colorado to attend a preoperative appointment in Denver the following day. Within an hour, claimant began the drive toward Colorado. Claimant had two essential choices for his return route. The shortest highway route from Reno to Denver involved traveling on Interstate 80. Claimant instead chose to travel on Interstate 70, which would have taken him past his home. At a later hearing, claimant testified, however, that it was his intention to drive straight to the appointment and not stop by his home. After driving about 300 miles, claimant sustained multiple injuries in a motor vehicle accident near Elko, Nevada. Claimant contended his injuries were compensable since he was en route to an authorized medical appointment to treat his 2003 industrial injury. The ALJ denied the claim, concluding that claimant failed to prove that he was within the quasi-course of his employment while driving in Nevada based.
Should claimant recover for the injuries sustained in the automobile accident?
In Kelly v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 2009 Colo. App. LEXIS 322 (March 5, 2009), the Court of Appeals of Colorado (Division 7) acknowledged that it was well settled in Colorado that the quasi-course of employment doctrine extended workers’ compensation benefits to injuries sustained while traveling to and from treatment by an authorized provider, but noted that compensation for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident became more complicated when there was a deviation from the route of travel for medical treatment. Observing that the Colorado courts had not been called upon to answer the specific question related to such a deviation, the court looked to the general discussion of deviations found in Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law § 10.07, and noted the issue was highly fact specific. Adopting the substantial deviation test found in Larson, the court observed that the ALJ had not been persuaded that claimant was en route to a medical appointment at the time of the motor vehicle accident; instead, the ALJ determined that claimant was returning to his home in Gypsum. The ALJ, based on the evidence that the longer route claimant was taking would have taken claimant past his home and, if he continued without stopping, he would have arrived at his appointment several hours before it was scheduled, concluded that claimant was not in fact traveling to the medical appointment at the time of the motor vehicle accident; rather claimant had substantially deviated from the route of travel. That determination could not be disturbed on appeal.
See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law §§ 10.07, 17.01, 17.04.
Tom Robinson, J.D. is the primary upkeep writer for Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis) and Larson’s Workers’ Compensation, Desk Edition (LexisNexis). He is a contributing writer for California Compensation Cases (LexisNexis) and Benefits Review Board – Longshore Reporter(LexisNexis), and is a contributing author to New York Workers’ Compensation Handbook(LexisNexis). Attorney Robinson is an authority in the area of workers’ compensation and we are happy to have him as a Guest Contributor to Workers’ Comp Kit Blog. Tom can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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