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The general rule in Texas is that a Carrier is not liable for workers’ compensation benefits when a worker is injured while traveling to or from work. The “coming and going” rule, as it is known, was recently applied by the San Antonio Court of Appeal to uphold the Division’s denial of death benefits to the widow of Robert Estrada, a worker who was killed while traveling from his home to work to drop off his weekly timesheets while on his way to a jobsite.
In its decision, the appellate court explained that an activity is in the “course and scope” of employment, if itoriginates in the employer’s business and furthers the employer’s affairs. The court focused on the “origination component” and found that Mr. Estrada’s travel to his office did not originate in the employer’s business. The employer did not require its employees to start or end their day at the office, but rather, their work day began at the jobsite. Additionally, the employer exerted no influence on Mr. Estrada’s route to work, and Mr. Estrada could have delivered his timesheets in some other manner, including using a fax machine at the job site or sending them with another employee. Moreover, Mr. Estrada was not on a “special mission” in delivering the timesheet. Finally, the employer did not furnish Mr. Estrada with transportation or reimburse him for his travel. While it did provide a stipend for gas, the stipend was an “accommodation,” not a “necessity,” and there was no evidence that Mr. Estrada was required to use the stipend for gas or for any other specific purpose.
Ultimately the appeals court upheld the Division and trial court’s ruling that Mr. Estrada’s travel was not in the course and scope of his employment, stating that the risks to which he was exposed while traveling to and from work were shared by society as a whole and did not arise as a result of the work of his employer. – Fuentes v. Texas Mutual Ins. Co., No.04-16-00662-CV, 2017 WL 4942859 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Nov. 1, 2017).