Every state requires most employers to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. This means that if you are injured during the course of your work or arising from job-related duties, you are likely eligible to file a claim for benefits that will help to cover lost wages and medical expenses. (Notably, most independent contractors, employees of very small companies, and some workers within specialty industries are not eligible for this coverage.) With more employees working from home, you might wonder if employers are required to pay workers’ compensation if injuries occur at a home office. The answer is probably yes—with a few considerations that may be different than they would be if your accident or injury occurred at a typical workplace.
With that said, it is important to understand that every workers’ compensation scenario is slightly different. As a New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney from Rispoli & Borneo P.C. can confirm, it is important to avoid making assumptions about your eligibility for benefits until your unique situation has been evaluated by an attorney.
Employees Have a Burden of Proof
There are two important legal phrases used to consider which injuries are eligible for workers’ compensation: “in the course of” and “arising from.” “During the course of work” means that the injury happened while you were engaged in work-related activities. “Arising from job-related duties” specifies whether the injury occurred while performing work-related tasks. Neither of those criteria state where the work is performed—which means that workers’ compensation coverage generally applies regardless of where harm occurs, as long as the harm is work-related. You do not need to work at a construction site or office to be eligible. An injury that qualifies for workers’ compensation might occur while you are sitting at your kitchen table.
As an employee, you must prove that your injury occurred while you were performing work-related tasks. If you trip down a flight of stairs while you’re taking a work-related call, you are likely eligible to claim benefits. However, if you decide to go for a jog between meetings and trip over a curb, this may not be considered a work-related accident. Your employer needs to be certain that you were working in some capacity when you suffered harm.
In any workers’ compensation claim, it is important to carefully document your injury, but this is especially important for a work-from-home injury. You may have no witnesses (or only family witnesses), so your documentation needs to stand firm. Take careful notes or pictures, report your injury to your employer promptly, and follow up with a medical practitioner who can help to confirm and document the circumstances of any accident.
Safety hazards you might face at home are also employment hazards, so your employer is obligated to take steps to provide a safe work environment—even in your home. You must follow all policies established by your employer while telecommuting. They might create a work-from-home policy that outlines safe practices, set fixed schedules for telecommuting hours, or even check home offices for safety. If you don’t comply, your eligibility for benefits in the event of an injury could potentially be compromised.