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No Connecticut workers’ compensation for commuting policeman in driveway

Despite workers' compensation coverage for police and firefighters in Connecticut during their commutes to work, a state appeals court has confirmed that this does not mean that an officer hurt in his own driveway while leaving for his regular work shift would be eligible for workers' comp benefits for that injury.

Perun v. City of Danbury

On an early winter morning in February 2010, Danbury, Conn., police officer Robert Perun unfortunately slipped and fell on ice in his driveway on his way to his car to leave for work, injuring his back. The legal issue became whether an officer's injury sustained in his own driveway as he was leaving for work "arose out of and in the scope of his employment," the standard that must be met for a workers' compensation claim to be allowed.

It is the burden of the injured worker to prove that this standard was met.

The claim wound its way through the appeals process in the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Review Board, eventually being appealed by Perun to the state court after the final agency decision was to deny the back-injury claim. The court interpreted Connecticut workers' comp laws - which are fairly detailed on the topic - to arrive at a decision agreeing with the board that coverage should be denied.

Interpretation of state law

The court said it would seek to determine the intent of the legislature when it enacted the statute in question.

The opinion laid out the fundamental premise that employment starts when a worker gets to his or her place of employment and that before that his or her actions would not be in the course of employment. However, Connecticut workers' comp law lays out a specific exception for police and firefighters, expanding their courses of employment to include the time from "departure from ... place of abode to duty ... and the return to ... place of abode ..."

In other words, an injury that happens during a police officer's commute to and from duty is covered for benefits. However, the statute also says that an injury cannot arise out of employment if it happens at the "place of abode," including specifically the inside of the residence, garage, stairs, common hallways, driveway, walkways and yard. Since Officer Perun had not yet left his driveway, he was at his abode under the law and therefore not yet in the course of his employment for workers' compensation purposes.

Legal counsel important

As the Perun case illustrates, Connecticut workers' compensation law is complex with sometimes unexpected outcomes. Anyone who obtains a work injury or employment-related disease should speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to understand his or her rights, duties and legal options under Connecticut law.

Likewise, any Connecticut employer faced with a workers' claim from one of its workers may obtain guidance and representation about how to handle the matter from a knowledgeable workers' comp lawyer.

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