More people are working from home than ever before. We all know the old adage that most accidents occur in the home. When you spend your day working at home, that’s even more likely to be where you suffer an injury.
However, if you are injured while you’re working at home, can you get workers’ compensation? You just might be able to if the injury occurred while you were taking a break from your work to go to the bathroom or get a fresh cup of coffee. That’s because of something known as the “personal comfort doctrine” because it’s understood that workers need to take breaks during the workday for their “personal comfort.”
Under that doctrine, employees who are injured at work may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits even if they were in the restroom or lunchroom or taking a break elsewhere during their work hours. Some courts have ruled that this doctrine extends to people who are injured during a break while working at home.
Whether a person who is working from their home qualifies for workers’ comp depends on the specific circumstance. If you get up from your desk to get a protein bar and trip over your computer cord, that may qualify.
However, if you are shooting hoops with one of your kids in the evening and fall and sprain your ankle, you probably won’t be eligible for workers’ comp just because you were working in your home office earlier in the day and intended to do a little more work before going to bed. A workers’ comp court will look at whether the activity a person was engaged in when they were injured occurred during the course of their work or was unrelated to it.
If you do any significant amount of work at home, it’s wise to make sure that you have a safe work area. That means having your chair and computer at an appropriate height and keeping your work area free of tripping hazards like cords and children’s and pets’ toys, among other things.
If you suffer an injury while working at home, it’s important to document it and note as much detail as possible — particularly if there were no witnesses. This includes documenting any doctor or hospital visits. If you believe that your claim is being wrongly denied, it may be worthwhile to talk with a workers’ comp attorney.