Under Missouri workers compensation law, the general rule is that accidental injuries sustained either on the way to work or on the way home from work are not compensable. This is called the "coming and going rule." The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Southern District recently reaffirmed the "coming and going rule" in the case of Storie v. Americare Systems Inc., No. SD29635, which was handed down January 15, 2010. In Storie the Court of Appeals affirmed the Labor and Industrial Relations commission's denial of benefits, based on the "coming and going rule."
Storie was a licensed practical nurse who lives about 20 miles for a place of work. She normally worked an 8 to 9 hour shift every day, except the day of her injury, when she worked a double shift of 16 hours. When she found out that she was going to have to work a double shift, she told her supervisor that she was tired and exhausted, but she was told she would have to work a double shift anyway. On her way home after working 16 hours, her car left the road and crashed into a ditch. Storie remembered nodding off during the drive, but could not remember the accident. Stories medical expert psychiatrist, an expert in sleep medicine, testified that story likely fell asleep because of her exhausted state.
Stories workers compensation attorney argued that story's case fell under an exception to the coming and going rule, which is the special hazard doctrine. The attorney argued that because claimant was forced to work a double shift, this created a peculiar risk to claimant of falling asleep and getting in an accident. However, the Court of Appeals agreed with the commission that the special hazard doctrine did not apply, because her failure to get a sufficient amount of sleep to adjust to the demands of her work is a common risk shared by the general public is not a risk incident to and inseparable from claimant's employment.
It should be noted that this accident happened in 2003, and so was decided under the Missouri workers compensation act before the 2005 amendments, when the statutes were supposed to be liberally construed. Now, under the strict construction of the 2005 workers compensation act, it would undoubtedly be even harder to obtain benefits in such a case. There are other exceptions to the rule however, so it is important to contact an experienced Missouri workers compensation attorney if you are ever involved in an accident either on the way to or on the way home from work.
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