Working from home? Get hurt at home while working? Or maybe even when you weren't working?
It would seem now more than ever in the history of the modern economy the greatest number of people are working from home. Waxing and waning fears of the COVID-19 virus have shuttered, reopened, and re-shuttered places of business. Those who have the good fortune of being able to work from home have never been luckier.
But if you are working from home and you get hurt while working, can you claim Workers' Compensation benefits in New York? The answer is a most resounding.. yes! It always has been a yes, even before COVID-19. In fact, now may be easier than ever to sustain a claim for Workers' Compensation benefits for an injury occurring at home. You perhaps may not even have to have been working at the time of the injury to collect.
The Appellate Division came down with a most interesting decision on this very issue just last week in Matter of Capraro v. Matrix Absence Management, 2020 WL 6168225, Third Dept. (10/22/2020). The claimant in Capraro was working from home as a claims examiner. He sought to have the expense of new office furniture for his home covered by his employer. His employer declined. He nonetheless ordered the new furniture at his own expense. Then while carrying the boxes containing the new furniture aloft to his home office, the claimant was injured.
At the Workers' Compensation Board, the claim was denied. However, the Appellate Division found that the Board improperly invented and applied its own double legal standard for determining whether an injury occurring at home is compensable where such standard does not apply to work injuries outside the home. The Court remitted the matter to the Board to utilize the established legal standard that applies to all workers regardless of the situs of the injury - to wit: to determine whether the claimant was engaged in a “purely personal” activity that was not “reasonable and sufficiently work related under the circumstances”. In this regard, the Court even went so far as to caution the Board to bear in mind that a short break or some similar momentary deviation from the work routine for a customary and accepted purpose” does not constitute an interruption in employment sufficient to bar a claim for benefits. The Court also reminded the Board that although an injury may occur during a lunch hour, this fact alone does not defeat the compensability of the claim. Thus, while the Court did not expressly establish the claim in Capraro, it is rather clear from the tone of the decision that the Court wants the Board to keep an open mind and reconsider the claim applying appropriate and uniform legal standard that apply to all workers.
Therefore, theoretically, if you work from home, perhaps even take a break to make a sandwich, and trip and fall on your way back from the kitchen to your desk, you may very well have a meritorious claim for Workers' Compensation benefits in the State of New York. And there has never been a better time than now to pursue your claim under the Court's uniform standard that gives the benefit of the doubt to the home worker as much as the out-of-home worker.
Not sure if you have a valid claim? Brandon S. Clark, P.C. can offer you a risk-free consultation with no obligation. Contact us now!