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Workers’ comp in Kansas: the coming and going rule

A fundamental question to any workers compensation claim is whether there is a covered injury. Kansas law provides that and employee must establish that his or her accidental injury arose “out of and in the course of employment.” Not always a very simple matter. Consider the “coming and going ” rule. A recent case decided by the Kansas Court of Appeals in Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC, is instructive in the basics of this rule and its complexity.

The facts

The worker was a 23-year-old who was working as a back-up hand for an oil drilling company working on a particular crew. The crew worked from 7 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The crew travelled to various drill sites away from a central location; it took approximately one week to drill a well and when that was completed, the rig was dissembled and the crew moved on to the next site. The worker was required to travel to the various drill sites, although he was allowed to live anywhere. The crew chief provided his crew optional transportation to the various sites and the worker would travel to the crew chief’s home and then travel on to the site. The crew chief was paid for travel since he was taking himself and his crew to the work site. None of the workers, however, were compensated for their travel and only got paid when they clocked in at the site and ended when they clocked out.

On one particular day, the worker got permission to leave the work site in the vehicle of a coworker to get home sooner, for his own convenience; the crew chief gave no directions as to how they were to travel. On the trip home, the vehicle suffered a tire blowout and the vehicle rolled over; the worker was thrown from the vehicle. He reported his injuries to his crew chief from the emergency room.

The rule

The Court of Appeals summarized the “coming and going rule”: an injury is not considered to have arisen out of and in the course of employment if it occurred while the employee was “on the way to assume the duties of employment or after leaving such duties” where the injury is not the result of any negligence by the employer. However, there is an exception to the rule where travel becomes part of the job such that the employee actually starts work from the moment he or she leaves the house until he or she returns at the end of the day.

In this case, the court decided that had the worker travelled with the crew chief, the travel would have been furthering the drilling company’s interest; on this particular day, however, the worker chose different transportation for his sole convenience. Thus the court determined that the injury was not covered under worker’s compensation.

This case illustrates the complexities of injuries suffered in an employee’s travel and anyone who has suffered such injury should seek the advice of an experienced Kansas worker’s compensation attorney.