Alabama Court Finds Accident on the Way to Treatment for Injury Compensable
Flexicrew Staffing, Inc. v. Champion Released December 12, 2014 At the trial level the Baldwin County Circuit Court was presented with evidence related to whether of not Champion's claim based on a car accident was compensable. The Trial Court found the accident and injuries compensable based on evidence that was for the most part undisputed. On November 27, 2012 Champion was working at the construction site he was assigned to and cut his leg while using a grinder. There is no dispute that this injury was compensable. Champion, despite his supervisor's (supervisor on the construction site) advice, did not feel he need treatment for the laceration. Champion was provided first-aid and he returned to work. The on-site supervisor contacted Flexicrew and reported the accident. After working for a little while Champion decided he could not work and the supervisor told him Flexicrew instructed Champion to go to Industrial Medical Center (IMC) in Daphne for treatment of the cut. Champion felt he could drive himself and left the site in his own vehicle. On the way Champion began to feel nauseated and light-headed. Flexicrew contacted Champion while he was in route and offered to send him to a clinic closer to the site but Champion declined and continued to Daphne. After the call Champion drove through a red light and collided with another vehicle. This accident resulted in a broken neck, broken leg and broken ankle. Champion did not recall the accident but believed that he passed out due to blood loss. Flexicrew presented evidence indicating Champion's blood loss was insufficient to cause him to pass out. The Trial Court found in Champion's favor and award medical benefits and temporary total disability benefits. As a result of ordering both, the ruling was considered a final appealable order from which Flexicrew filed the subject appeal. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals considered this a question of first impression,whether the injuries resulting from the car accident arose out of the course of Champions employment. Flexicrew argued that the injuries were not compensable because they did not arise out of and in the course of Champion's employment. They took the position that the car accident was not a natural and direct consequence of the compensable leg injury but at trial the attorney for Flexicrew admitted he had no law to support his contention. Champion argued that the injuries were compensable because in he as traveling to IMC in Daphne, as instructed, to receive medical treatment for a compensable injury. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals looked to other jurisdictions for case law on this issue. They cited Taylor v. Centex Construction Co., a 1963 Kansas decision. Taylorstated that an injury sustained while traveling to receive medical treatment for a compensable injury arose out of the course of employment. The rationale was the employer is under a duty to provide treatment and the employee is under a duty to submit to treatment or lose benefits during the refusal to submit to treatment. Professor Larson addressed the Taylor decision and opined that based on the duty to provide and duty to submit to medical treatment, it is then implied that it is part of the employment contract, and injuries during the trip to receive medical treatment pursuant to the statute and contractual agreement are work related. 1 Arthur Larson & Lex k. Larson, Larson's Workers' Compensaiton Law �_ 10.07 (2011). Larson also pointed out that the majority of jurisdictions has ruled the same way. Id. (Nebraska, South Carolina, Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, Florida and Minnesota). Larson pointed out that some states had rejected the theory that injuries sustained while traveling to received medical treatment did arise out of the course of employment. Id. (Wyoming, Michigan, Oklahoma, Indiana and Idaho). The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals agreed with the majority of jurisdictions finding that injuries sustained while traveling to see an employer-designated physician forinitial treatment of a work related injury are compensable under the Act. The Court stated that, as in Kansas, the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act creates a duty to provide and submit to medical treatment. Therefore, injuries sustained while traveling to receive initial medical care as directed by the employer for a work related injury are compensable. The Court pointed out that there was no evidence that Champion had deviated from the direct route to IMC but if he had it might have affected the compensability of the injuries. MY TWO CENTS In this case, the Court refers to arising out of the course of employment and removes the and, which the Supreme Court stated in Ex parte Patton was in the statute and required an employee to meet both parts, arising out of and in the course of, to be compensable. The Court's analysis pointed to the fact that by instructing Champion to go to IMC for the laceration, the parties reasonably contemplated that Champion would be in the car where he was and when he was to secure treatment pursuant to the Act, meeting the in the course of part of the two part test. Then while the car accident was unexplained, circumstantial evidence presented by Champion allowed the Court to infer Champion had an increased risk of being involved in a car accident because he was losing blood from the laceration, meeting the arising out of part of the two part test. ____________________________ ABOUT THE AUTHOR The article was written by Joshua G. Holden, Esq. a Member of Fish, Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers and insurance carriers in workers' compensation and related liability matters. Mr. Holden is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating an attorney can receive. Holden and his firm are members of The National Workers' Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN). The NWCDN is a national and Canadian network of reputable law firms organized to provide employers and insurers access to the highest quality representation in workers' compensation and related employer liability fields. If you have questions about this article or Alabama workers' compensation issues in general, please feel free to contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-332-1428.