Clarifying Compensability of Accidents in Transit between Medical Appointments

Occasionally, an Employer/Insurer’s satisfaction of their obligation to provide an employee with appropriate medical care can create an increased risk of additional accidents.  For example, an employee will likely have to brave the freeways and roads in order to travel to and from his medical appointments.  If the employee is involved in a car accident while traveling to or from his medical appointment, that raises questions as to whether the injuries sustained in the car accident are compensable.  The employee will argue that had it not been for his medical appointment, he would not have been injured in the car accident.

The Georgia Court of Appeals has dealt with this issue, and  the law is evolving.  In the case of Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Crawford, 177 Ga. App. 242, 339 S.E.2d 292 (1985) injuries sustained in a car accident while en route to an employer mandated appointment was compensable.  The Court has held that the issue of whether an employee’s injuries were sustained while en route to, or from, a physician’s appointment for treatment of a work related injury  turns on the issue of whether the trip was voluntary.  This year, the Court of Appeals published an opinion that may enable employers and insurers to take a more aggressive defensive position concerning the underlying compensability of a motor vehicle accident. In the case of Flores v Dependable Tire Co., 315 Ga. App. 311, the Court of Appeals more clearly identified the elements for determining compensability of an accident which occurs while the claimant is in transit to, or from, a medical appointment.  InFlores, the employer provided transportation to the medical appointment, and Flores was injured in an accident.  The Court held that this fact alone should not render the accident “work-related,” particularly because Flores was not going to, or from, work when the accident occurred, the appointment was not required by the employer, and  the employer had no control over Flores’s appointments.  Thus, the Court determined that the car accident was not a compensable accident.

Typically, short of requiring the Claimant to attend a specific appointment, it is unlikely that an employer will exert sufficient control over a Claimant’s medical appointments such that any accident in transit becomes compensable.  The Court of Appeals’ clarification and identification of elements that factor into the decision can aid employers as they seek to manage their employees who require medical care through workers’ compensation.
By: David Dix

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