Work-related injuries sustained outside the tangible boundaries of what was once considered the traditional office has become an increasingly hot topic within workers’ compensation law. As kitchen tables, parking lots, and laundry rooms across the country have been transformed into working spaces, employees in Maryland have rightly begun to wonder what happens when you are injured while working remotely.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors to consider in a remote workers’ compensation in Maryland. For further questions about the unique specifics of your case, be sure to speak with us to ensure you are able to receive the compensation for which you are eligible.
What Is Considered an At-Home Work-Related Injury?
In Maryland, an injury is compensable if it arises out of and in the course of employment. This means that there must be a connection between the employment and the injury for the injured worker to receive compensation for their losses. Workers’ compensation cases look at the cause of the injury, and the time, place, and circumstances under which the injury occurred.
Therefore, remote employees should generally be covered under workers’ compensation policies if the injury occurred while completing a work-related task. In most cases, the employee working from home (or another location) must be able to prove that they were performing work duties in the interest of their employer, and not a personal mission, at the time they were injured.
However, as you can probably imagine, these types of cases are never simple. In a still-evolving area of the law with numerous comparatively gray areas, insurance companies are quick to single out any details which may be used to render an employee ineligible for compensation. Questions arise concerning premises (or what constitutes a workplace), an employer’ inability to manage the safety conditions of an out-of-office workplace, and actions that may or may not be a part of work, such as getting a cup of coffee or dealing with a child interrupting a video meeting. With all these uncertainties, the skilled lawyers at Belsky & Horowitz are ready to help you examine your case details, defend your rights, and ensure you are awarded the compensation you are entitled to under the law.
Other Work-Related Injuries
Injuries arising out of and in the course of employment can take on many shapes and forms. Many people are most familiar with a single incident injury—an event which occurs at a specific point in time and directly causes an injury requiring treatment. Examples could include a broken bone from falling on an icy sidewalk or a back injury from lifting a heavy object.
There are also occupational illnesses, or ailments resulting from long-term, repetitive actions or exposures. Carpal tunnel syndrome, illness from chemical exposure, or asbestos-related lung diseases can be considered occupational illnesses. Additionally, workers who suffer damaged emotional and psychological health due to their position of employment may also be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Recent Remote Work Injury Cases in Maryland
When we evaluate your workers’ compensation case, one part of our job is to look to the examples of previous cases to help determine how, why, and to what degree you are eligible for the compensation you need to recover from your injuries. Two fairly recent workers’ compensation cases in Maryland provide helpful examples regarding what is considered a work site and what is considered a work-related activity.
The first case involving a customer service representative driving to various grocery stores in Maryland, Schwan Food Co. v. Ryan Frederick, led to a Maryland court definition of criteria for how to determine what can be considered a work site. The three-part test looks at: the regularity and amount of work being done at the site, what work equipment is there, and the circumstances which make it necessary (not just personally convenient) to work from this place. Although Ryan Frederick was injured in a fall on black ice before COVID-19 caused a surge in out-of-office working, the criteria defining “work site” which resulted from his case have been applicable in the pandemic era of remote work.
The second case, Montgomery County, Maryland v. John T. Maloney, involved a firefighter who was injured while staying at a fire station closer to his next-morning training site than his home. Because John T. Maloney was not at his workplace, home, or training site at the time of the injury, nor was he injured during working hours, the courts had to determine whether the injury actually arose out of and in the course of employment. As it was decided that Maloney was in fact eligible for compensation for his injury, injured employees and their attorneys have a better understanding of how workers’ compensation can be applied to work-related injuries and illnesses.
Geographical Considerations for Maryland Workers
Another thing we will help you consider is the locality of where your workers’ compensation claim should be filed. Due to its unique geographic configuration, a large number of Maryland employees live outside of the state borders. For many remote employees, this means working in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, or the District of Columbia for an office or company based in Maryland. Workers’ compensation is a state-specific policy, therefore where you were physically located when your accident happened may influence in what state the claim should be filed. Multi-state workers’ compensation cases can become densely complex.
Workers’ compensation for remote injuries is a developing area of the law, exposed to sudden scrutiny under the harsh lights of the COVID-19 pandemic. Examination of these types of cases has been intensified by the increasingly blurred lines between home and office life. Questions concerning what constitutes work property, how to handle out-of-state employee injuries, what to do when employers have no control over the physical security of the workspace, and the legal implications of working from home when the government requires you to do so have become highly debated.
Maryland’s remote employees who have been injured on the job need Belsky & Horowitz who are experienced, innovative, connected, informed, and aware. Contact our office today to schedule a discussion with one of our experienced lawyers.