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What Happens If You’re in a Car Accident When You’re on the Clock?

Depending on your employment, you might be required to run errands, travel between locations, or be on call after regular business hours. If you sustained injuries in a car accident that occurred due to someone else’s negligence during the scope of your employment, you might be wondering how your medical expenses will be covered and whether you can sue for your damages.

While Workers’ Compensation generally applies for employees who are injured in accidents while they’re on the clock, the law is highly nuanced and fact-specific. It’s important to understand that you may also be entitled to recover your economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury action against a negligent third-party who is not your employer, whether you were on the clock or not.      

The “Comings and Goings” Rule

New York follows the “comings and goings rule.” Under this doctrine, employees are usually not considered to be in the course of their employment when they’re commuting to and from work. This means that your medical expenses and lost wages resulting from a car accident during your commute would be covered by no-fault insurance, rather than go through the Workers’ Compensation system.

However, the “comings and goings” rule has a few exceptions.

If your employer requires that you “clock-in” before your commute and your salary compensates you for travel time, you would likely be deemed to be “in the course of your employment” if an accident occurred on your way to work. Additionally, if your employer asks you to go on a “special mission” on your way to work, such as running an errand, any accident that arises during that time might be considered work-related.

An exception to the “comings and goings” rule might also apply if you were driving a company-owned vehicle during your commute, such as in the case of a taxi driver, delivery person, or maintenance person.

What is an Independent Contractor?

Independent contractors are not considered employees and would not be entitled to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits for any car accidents that occur during working hours — if you’re an independent contractor, your medical expenses would be paid through the no-fault insurance system. You may also recover unreimbursed medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages for injuries related to a car accident that occurred while working by filing a personal injury action. 

If it’s unclear whether you were hired as an employee or an independent contractor, the circumstances surrounding the employment usually define whether there is an employer-employee relationship. Independent contractors generally:

  • Set their own work hours
  • Control how much they make
  • Are free from the control of an “employer” 
  • Supply their own equipment

If you work for an employer who is an independent contractor or subcontractor to another party, your medical expenses and lost wages might be covered by Workers’ Compensation for a car accident that occurred during work hours. Receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits does not preclude you from recovering your economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit.

Pursuing a Personal Injury Action for Work-Related Car Accidents

Whether Workers’ Compensation applies to your car accident or not, you may still be entitled to pursue a personal injury action to hold the negligent party accountable for your injuries. Although Workers’ Compensation bars you from suing your employer for negligence, on-the-job car accidents typically involve a party who is not associated with your employment, such as another driver on the road.  

In a personal injury action, you may be entitled to recover unreimbursed medical expenses and lost wages that were not paid by Workers’ Compensation or through the no-fault system. You may also be able to recover non-economic damages — such as pain and suffering and loss of consortium — which are not compensated by either Workers’ Compensation or no-fault insurance.

Contact an Experienced New York Car Accident Attorney

Whether the accident occurred during work hours or not, if you sustained injuries in a car crash due to the negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. It’s critical to contact a New York personal injury attorney immediately who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. can help you recover the maximum compensation you deserve.  

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, Rockland County, and on Long Island in Nassau County and Suffolk County. Contact us at today for a consultation.  

John P. Dearie

John P. Dearie is a graduate of Regis High School, The University of Notre Dame, and St. John’s University School of Law. After working at a corporate law firm in New York City for two years following law school graduation, he joined The Dearie Law Firm in 2011.

John represents injured New Yorkers in third-party negligence litigations, as well as first responders, workers, volunteers and residents in claims to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.