November 3, 2022, brought a surprise dusting of snow to Flagstaff and other northern higher-level (above 6,500 feet) locations in Arizona. Some of this will stick around for a little while, which means you may find icy spots on the road if you drive company vehicles here and there. Do not forget black ice, that stuff you cannot see while driving on the road because it is invisible – until you hit it and start sliding around. Take caution and drive responsibly.
It seems a good time to review the types of snow and ice work-related accidents you could have while you are working during the day. And if you are the reporter and camera person for local news, watch out when you throw those snowballs while on air. If you try to avoid that snowball hit, and you slip and fall while moving backward (or sideways), you could hurt yourself.
As Arizona is a “no-fault” state for work-related accidents, however, workers’ compensation will cover reporters’ medical bills and there is plenty of evidence with the station recording of the event and thousands of local witnesses. Here’s looking at you, Cristiana, Craig, Steven, and Victor, at KOLD AZFamily 3TV. It’s all good and fun.
On a more serious note, there are plenty of examples where snow and ice can cause work-related accidents and injuries resulting in days off from work while recuperating. First, if you are traveling to and from work back to home, then any accidents that occur on roads with snow and ice, do not fall under workers’ compensation.
But, if you are making a stop at the printer’s shop to pick up papers requested by the boss in an early-morning phone text, then you continue to work but slide off the road because of ice and injure yourself, then that is a work-related accident, and you are covered by workers’ compensation. The same is true if you go to lunch off the premises, then stop to pick up office supplies while on the way back after lunch, as requested by the manager. If you have a road accident after picking up the supplies, you will be covered by workers’ compensation.
Using the above examples of conducting company business while on the way to, or from, work, here is a slightly different scenario. Right before you leave work to go home, Krista, your manager, asks you to stop by the printer’s shop to pick up pictures that will be used for promotions in an upcoming event. They are needed tomorrow morning at your workplace.
The printer shop is still open for another hour now but will not be open early enough for you to pick up the pictures in the morning. So, you head over to the shop after work, pick up the pictures, and head home using a different route because the shop is out of the way from your normal route home. On this different route, while headed home, a large florist van slides out on the ice and hits you broadside, and you are severely injured. Will you be covered by workers’ compensation at this point?
The employer’s insurance company may argue that, as you were headed home, this accident should not be covered by workers’ compensation. Under regular circumstances, this would be correct. But your argument is that you would not have ever gone this route except that you had to conduct a business transaction for the company. It was not until you turned onto your home road that you would have been finally on your regular route.
But what if you are finally on the street where you live and a neighbor’s car backs out, hits the ice, and slides uncontrollably, then hits you broadside? In most situations, the answer would be no, as you are almost home. But there is an argument to be made regarding the fact that you are carrying needed business products in your car. You could still be covered. This is one for your Arizona workers’ compensation attorney and the court system to decide upon. The argument could be that, as you are carrying company products that must be delivered in the morning, you are still on company time while in the car.
Every business has to have a place for employees to park, whether the parking lot is part of the business property, or the parking lot is rented from a third party. If the parking lot is part of the business property, then you are on the company’s premises whenever you turn into the lot in the morning to park, or when you leave the building, walk the lot to your car and get in. Once you are off the lot headed home, then you are off the employer’s premises.
What if the parking lot has patches of ice and you slip and fall while going to – or from – the building? Then you are still covered by workers’ compensation benefits for your accident and injury (twisted knee or ankle, etc.). Any time you are on the employer’s premises, then you are covered for any slip and fall accidents related to snow, ice, water puddles, grease, or oil on the ground, etc.
A parking lot leased by the company where employees are directed to park for free is considered “controlled” by the company, as per the agreement made with the leasing company. The one grey area is who should maintain the parking lot when ice and snow are packed onto the lot’s surface. As a landlord of sorts, one would expect the landlord to lay down sand as soon as possible on the lot to avoid anyone having an accident and getting hurt.
Maintenance is a battle between your employer and the landlord of the lot. It does mean that, if your accident is serious enough, the lot’s landlord becomes a third party in a personal injury lawsuit.
While these workplace accidents can happen at any time for whatever reason, when snow and ice also occur, serious accidents and injuries are more likely to occur. At the first sign of snow, start thinking about when that snow will freeze at nightfall, creating hidden patches of ice and compounding the danger. Always be more cautious than usual when operating in snow and ice.
Arizona Injury Law Group offers experienced and Certified workers’ compensation lawyers and legal services for injured workers. Call for your free consultation! 602-346-9009.
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