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Are workplace injuries during rest breaks compensable?

As a nurse, if you hurt your back while helping a patient, that is clearly a work-related injury. But if you hurt your back during your meal break, things might not be so clear-cut. Can a worker injured during a break successfully claim workers’ compensation in California?

As with many workers’ comp cases, it depends on the facts of the injured worker’s case. For one thing, state workers’ compensation law states that a worker’s injuries must have occurred while “performing services growing out of and incidental to his or her employment and is acting in the course of his or her employment.” Normally, it would hard to argue that eating lunch is acting “in the course of employment.” Especially if the worker is not on the premises at the time, e.g., in their car and injured in a crash.

Pay for breaks can open the door for workers’ comp

However, if the injured worker is compensated for their break period, that changes things. The California Supreme Court ruled in a 1984 case that such injuries a compensable under the “going and coming rule.” Thus, whether or not a particular break-time injury qualifies for workers’ comp could depend on whether the worker gets paid for their breaks.

Other factors might include whether there was an employer-related interest or benefit to the workers’ activity when they were injured and exactly what the employee was doing when they got hurt. The particular facts of the case generally make a great deal of difference in these situations.

The one thing that helps a workers’ comp claim the most

No matter where you were hurt and how strong your workers’ comp claim is, you will benefit from an attorney’s help, especially if your initial claim has been rejected. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you strengthen your case and avoid mistakes on appeal.