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Liability and Employee Travel: What Can It Cost Your Small Business?

Author: L. Schlereth Date: August 26, 2011

 

Employee safety is important to any small business owner. You want to make sure your workers and your business are protected in the event of work-related injuries. When it comes to business travel, your liability as an employer typically falls under workers’ compensation law, so it’s important to know what your workers’ comp insurance covers.

Here's what you should know:

Liability and coverage vary from state to state.

Dewey Crepeau, an attorney based in Columbia, Mo., who has handled workers’ comp cases for the past 30 years, says that workers’ comp stipulations depend greatly on the state. For instance, in one state, the employer might get to pick the doctor who treats the injured employee, while in other states, the employee might get to pick.

It’s situation-specific.

Jamie Sheller, attorney with Sheller P.C., a Philadelphia-based law firm, says that if an employee is harmed in the course and scope of employment while traveling, it’s likely that your workers’ comp insurance will cover it. But if they are away on business and doing something not within the course and scope of employment, i.e. riding a motorcycle for recreational purposes, then workers’ comp might not cover the injury. “It’s pretty complicated,” says Sheller. “It’s really sort of a patchwork of existing benefits.”

What you’re liable for can be a gray area, but here are some tips to make sure you’re as prepared as possible:

Check with your state department of labor.

Because workers’ comp is so state-specific, Leonard Emma, employment attorney with the Law Office of Randall Crane based in Oakland, Calif., recommends looking at your state department of labor’s website, where you can find general information about what your state’s workers’ comp covers in terms of employee travel.

Consult experts.

Emma says a lawyer can help you sort through complicated workers’ comp laws. You’ll also want to discuss it with the person in your business who handles human resources. Crepeau says the most important person to consult is your workers’ comp carrier, as they’ll be able to give the most specific answers on what you’re liable for when it comes to employee travel. Make sure you get it in writing, and check with them on an annual basis, as the laws change from year to year, Emma says.

NFIB members in many states can take control of their workers’ compensation costs.

 

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