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Injured on Break? New York Workers' Compensation May Cover It

During a break from his car sales position, a New York worker was injured during a car accident when he left work to pick up two spaghetti dinners for the dealership's finance manager. The salesman filed an application for workers' compensation benefits.

The employer and its work comp insurance carrier contested the employee's application for New York workers' compensation benefits, likely claiming that the car accident did not arise in the course of employment or that the worker was not performing job duties when the car accident occurred.

But, the Workers' Compensation Law Judge (WCLJ) agreed with the car salesman and awarded benefits. The Workers' Compensation Board agreed with the WCLJ, affirming the award of workers' compensation for the car accident injuries.

The fight for benefits continued. Finally, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York upheld the work comp benefits for the car salesman. The court reasoned that short breaks are not a break in the workday. The court specifically noted that "Accidents that occur during an employee's short breaks, such as coffee breaks, are considered to be so closely related to the performance of the job that they do not constitute an interruption of employment."

New York workers' compensation laws provide benefits for those injured while working. The car salesman had first asked for and received his supervisor's permission to take the short break during his shift time. He was only gone for about 15 minutes and was returning to the dealership when he was injured in the car accident. His employer also had a history of allowing workers to leave for short periods of time throughout the work day on paid breaks.

Source: Insurance Journal, "N.Y. Court: Worker Injured on Break Entitled to Workers' Comp Benefits," January 11, 2012

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