The Positional Risk Doctrine: You May Be Covered Under Workers’ Compensation Even If Your Injury Wasn’t Directly Related to Your Job

Posted by Tony Brock | Apr 08, 2017 | 0 Comments

There are instances in which you may have a viable workers' compensation claim, but not realize it because, on its face, the injury doesn't appear to be work-related. Of course, Nebraska Workers' Compensation law requires that an injury must “arise out of” and “in the course” of employment in order to be compensable.

However, in many states-including Nebraska-workers' compensation law follows the positional risk doctrine. This principle holds that an injury arises out of employment if the conditions and obligations of your employment required you to be at the place where the injury occurred at the time it occurred. This is true even if you were injured by a “neutral” force-something neither personal to you, nor directly associated with your job.

In Logsdon v. ISCO Co., for instance, a worker was injured at his workplace when he fell while walking during a morning break. The cause of his fall was unknown. The worker filed a petition in the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court seeking a determination of benefits. The single judge awarded benefits, but the review panel reversed the judgment and ordered the petition dismissed, saying unexplained falls were not compensable.

Then, in another whiplash move, the appeals court reversed the review panel's findings. The court reasoned that, because the injury arose from a neutral force-again, neither personal nor job-related-the positional risk doctrine applied. In other words, the worker would not have been at the place of injury if the duties of his employment had not required him to be there. Consequently, the injuries arose out of his employment and were compensable under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act.

A classic and perhaps even clearer illustration of the principle of positional risk is the New Jersey case of Gargiulo v. Gargiulo. A butcher's helper was on his way to empty the trash when he was struck in the eye by a stray arrow shot into the air by a child in the neighborhood. In awarding compensation, the New Jersey Supreme Court said:

It [the employment] brought him unwittingly into the line of fire of the arrow, where he would not have been except for his employment. But for the compliance with his allotted work directive requiring his presence at the particular time and place in question, the injury would not have been inflicted.

Clearly, no injured trucker should decide at face value whether they have a viable worker's compensation claim. If there is any question whatsoever, you should consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who knows trucking and understands the intricacies of your state's workers' comp laws. If you would like to discuss your injury and your rights to compensation, contact us at the Brock Law Offices, our office.

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Tony Brock



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