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New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law – Can Workers Receive Workers’ Comp Benefits if Injured While on Coffee Breaks?

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In general, NJ workers are eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits if their injuries arise out of and in the course of employment. The definition of “employment” is defined by N.J.S.A. 34:15-36, which provides:

Employment shall be deemed to commence when an employee arrives at the employer’s place of employment to report for work and shall terminate when the employee leaves the employer’s place of employment, excluding areas not under the control of the employer.

Therefore, workers traveling to work from home and vice versa are generally not eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits if they are injured during routine travel.

What about an employee who leaves the office to grab a cup of coffee? Can he receive workers’ comp benefits if he is hit and injured by a car while walking there? Yes, according to New Jersey case law.

Related: New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law – Denial of Benefits due to Major Deviation from Work

In Cooper v. Barnickel Enterprises Inc., a NJ worker was injured in a car accident while he was on his way to get coffee from his job. The coffee shop was 5 miles away, and the court held that he was eligible to receive workers’ compensation because a coffee break was a minor deviation from his job activities. The court held that “accidents occurring during coffee breaks for off-site employees, which are equivalent to those of on-site workers, are minor deviations from employment which permit recovery of workers’ compensation benefits.”

Further, the court went on to say that injuries that occur during on-site lunch breaks and coffee breaks are generally found compensable by New Jersey courts. The fact that the employee had to go off-site to get coffee does not exclude him from getting workers’ comp benefits. If he was injured during a coffee break on-site, he would have been eligible for workers’ comp benefits.

However, if the same employee decided to go to the mall before going to the coffee shop and was injured in a car accident, he is probably not going to be eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits. Going to the mall is a major deviation from work, and NJ courts would likely find that the worker is not eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits.

If you were injured while working, whether on-premises or off-premises, it is important to talk to an experienced workers’ comp lawyer to properly evaluate your case. Call Philip T. Ciprietti, Esq. to schedule a FREE consultation.  856.983.8695

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