Illinois workers’ compensation: The going-and-coming rule

njury during work commutes are generally not covered, but there are exceptions.

As a general rule, an Illinois employee who is injured during a regular commute to or from work is not covered by workers’ compensation for that injury. This is called the going-and-coming rule. The idea is that the employer has no control over what happens during that trip. The mode of transportation and the route are all completely within the discretion of the commuting employee.

However, sometimes this rule is not cut and dried. In particular fact scenarios, there are recognized exceptions.

Workers’ compensation benefits are awarded to workers who are injured or who get occupational illnesses that arise out of and in the course of employment. Because a work commute does not arise out of the job and does not happen in the course of work, the risk of injury is shifted to the employee.

Broadly, exceptions to the rule look at whether an injury is somehow related to the job, whether the employer gets some benefit from what the employee was doing at the time, or whether the risk taken that resulted in injury was a personal one or one the general public faces, rather than a risk related to the employment.

Exception: Wages paid during the commute

If an employer pays an employee wages for the time spent in a commute, Illinois law recognizes an exception to the going-and-coming rule and workers’ compensation covers an injury during a paid commute. Reimbursement for commute expenses is not the same thing, however, and does not trigger the exception.

Exception: Special errand or mission

If the commute includes some kind of special errand for the employer and the employee is injured, the injury may be covered. For example, if the employer asked the worker to swing by the dry cleaners on his or her way to work to pick up linens used in the business, an injury during this special errand would be brought within workers’ compensation coverage.

Illinois cases define this exception as occurring while the employee is doing something at the “direction of the employer or for his benefit or accommodation.” Put another way: Was the trip “occasioned by the demands of the employment?”

Exception: Traveling employee

The going-and-coming rule does not apply to an employee who travels as part of his or her work duties. The worker’s job duties are performed away from the employer’s place of business or workplace. In this situation, workers’ compensation applies from leaving home through returning, so long as the employee is doing things that are reasonable and foreseeable.

Exception: Employer-provided vehicle

When an employer provides a car for an employee to use, the arrangement is considered to be beneficial for the employer, so injury while using such a vehicle is normally covered by workers’ compensation.

The going-and-coming rule and its exceptions are complex. Anyone who has been injured while commuting or otherwise away from work premises should talk to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about whether the rule applies.

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Goldfine & Bowles, P.C., with locations in Galesburg, Bloomington and Peoria, represent people with work-related injuries and illnesses in their claims for workers’ compensation benefits throughout central Illinois.