How Would You Decide:
Here’s what Tom Robinson, J.D., writer for Lexis Nexis Workers Comp Law Center reports: Is Injury Sustained During Doctor Visit 130 Miles from Home Workers Comp?
Here’s What Happened
Esquivel, a correctional officer, resided in San Diego and at the time her case arose, was being treated for work-related industrial injuries by medical providers located within eight miles of her home. For reasons unrelated to her need for that treatment, Esquivel drove about 130 miles to her mother’s home in Hesperia, in San Bernardino County. Esquivel suffered serious new injuries when she drove through a stop sign in Hesperia while en route from her mother’s home to the San Diego offices of the medical providers. The workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) found that Esquivel’s motor vehicle accident injuries were a compensable consequence of her existing industrial injuries and awarded her temporary disability indemnity and additional medical benefits. Upon reconsideration, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) reversed the WCJ’s findings and award, finding that the accident occurred too remotely from Esquivel’s home and her destination to reasonably assign the risk of injury en route to the employer. Esquivel appealed.
Here’s What The Court Decided
In Esquivel v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (Corrections Corp. of Am.), 2009 Cal. App. LEXIS 1664 (Oct. 13, 2009), the Court of Appeal of California (Fourth Appellate Dist., Div. 1) affirmed the Board’s decision. The essential issue, said the appellate court, was whether there is a reasonable geographic limitation on an employer’s risk of incurring liability under the Act with respect to new injuries an employee suffers while en route to or from a medical appointment for examination or treatment of an existing industrial injury. The court held that there was such a limitation and held that the employer bears this risk while the employee is traveling a reasonable distance, within a reasonable geographic area, to or from the medical appointment. As to what constitutes a “reasonable distance,” the court also held that such determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis considering all relevant circumstances. The court indicated that the most serious problem with providing coverage in the case of the trip to the doctor’s office was that the employer lacked the opportunity to exercise any control over the trip. (workersxzcompxzkit) It was one thing to saddle the employer with the risk of additional injury when the injured worker traveled a reasonable distance to the medical provider and yet quite a different matter where, as here, Esquivel was driving some 130 miles.
See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 10.07.
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). 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: email@example.com.
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