One of the most important limitations about workers’ compensation coverage is that it only applies to injuries you suffer on the job. In our last workers’ compensation post, we wondered whether a postal worker was still “on the job” when their mail truck was hit by a school bus. It was 5pm, and many jobs have set hours, so if the mail carrier was working past shutdown, they could have a tough time getting workers’ compensation cover their injuries.
But even if you are on the clock, you still might not be on the job. Running personal errands while at work can take you far enough outside the scope of your employment that workers’ compensation will no longer cover you. The details of your errand can dictate whether it was personal enough to warrant this treatment.
Detours, Frolics, and the Scope of Employment for Workers’ Compensation
The legal field distinguishes between two types of personal errands in the workplace: Detours and frolics. The colorful terms come from an English case in 1834 that first had to determine if a worker was still “on the job” even though he had left the workplace.
Detours are minor excursions from the scope of employment that leave the worker still technically “on the job.”
Frolics are departures from the scope of employment that are significant enough to take you off work.
If you get hurt on a detour, workers’ compensation will cover you. If you get hurt on a frolic, it will not.
Factors that Draw the Line Between Detours and Frolics
Numerous factors help to determine whether a departure from work was a detour or a frolic, with no single factor being all-important. Some of the most common factors include:
- How long the worker was off work
- Why the worker was away from the workplace
- Whether the worker drank alcohol or did drugs during the departure
- How far out of their way the worker had to go
- Whether the departure was tangentially related to work
- What time of day it happened
An Example of a Frolic that Deprives Workers’ Compensation Coverage
One example of when a worker’s departure becomes significant enough to amount to a frolic comes from the case Simmons v. Bob Mears Wholesale Florist. In that case, a traveling salesperson was in a company car when he stopped at a liquor store between two customer meetings and bought some whiskey. He took a highway that he knew had a secluded rest stop, where he pulled off the road and drank for half an hour. He then fell asleep at the wheel and got into a single-vehicle car accident.
The Missouri Court of Appeals decided that this was a frolic, and denied workers’ compensation coverage.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The details are important if you slipped out of work for a few minutes and got hurt. It can take a personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer to stress why the departure was just a detour and that you are still entitled to workers’ compensation.