Do I have to actually be working when I'm injured in order to qualify for workers' compensation benefits? What if I'm injured during my lunch break?
In order to collect workers compensation benefits, you must prove that your injury or illness arose as a direct result of performing required job duties, or as a direct result of your employment relationship. You do not need to prove that your employer was negligent or careless in any way in order to collect workers comp benefits, and even your own negligence won't disqualify you as long as your behavior did not violate company policy. However, you do need to have been working. This means that injuries that occur on a lunch break are generally not going to qualify you for workers compensation benefits except in special circumstances.
While you must be working when you are injured in order to collect workers compensation benefits, you do not necessarily need to have suffered the injury at the normal location where you work. For instance, if you normally work at an office but you suffer an injury when you are sent to check out a new construction site for the company, this will not disqualify you from making a claim.
The essential test of whether your injury will be covered is whether it is job related and whether it was required or essential for your job. For example, your injury should be covered if you are injured while traveling on business. Injuries incurred while doing a work-related errand, like getting coffee for your boss, should also be covered by workers comp.
Even attending a required business-related social function, like playing flag football at a company-sponsored picnic, may be covered if you had to go to the picnic or if going to the picnic was important for advancing in your job. However, if you deviate from your job when doing these tasks, like stopping for lunch on the way back from that company picnic, then you generally are not going to be considered to have suffered a work injury if you are hurt during this non-work task.
Injuries That Are Not Covered
While workers compensation is designed to provide extensive protection to employees, as mentioned, there are some exceptions to the types of injuries that will be included. For example, in general, you will not be covered for injuries sustained while traveling to or from work.
Injuries during your lunch break are also not covered injuries unless, for example, you're "on-call" during your lunch break or on a business lunch. Injuries you suffer while playing a basketball game with your work friends on your day off or attending voluntary party outside of work with your co-workers or boss that had no bearing on your job may also not entitle you to workers compensation benefits.