What is the ‘Going and Coming’ Rule and How Can it Affect Your California Personal Injury Case?

bicycleThere are many different rules established by the law (whether through statutes or court cases). Some are very well known, while others are known mostly only by lawyers. One of these rules, called the “going and coming” rule, affects whether the law considers you to be on the job or on your own time when an accident happens. While many people often associate this rule with claims for workers’ compensation benefits, it can also play an important role in your personal injury case, potentially in a negative way. With representation from a knowledgeable California accident attorney, however, you may be able to overcome this rule and still maximize your claim for damages.

One recent case in which this rule had an important impact was the injury lawsuit filed by a bicyclist named Andres. Andres was riding his bicycle in San Diego County when he collided with a vehicle owned by Brian. Andres hit Brian’s vehicle because Brian opened his vehicle door into Andres’ path, and the bicyclist could not avoid the collision.

Clearly, Andres had a potential claim against Brian, alleging that Brian was negligent in opening the door and that that negligence caused the accident. Pursuing only Brian, however, might mean that Andres might not be able to recover a damages award that fully covered all of the harm he suffered.

This bicyclist, however, also sued Brian’s employer, a bus sales company. The bicyclist’s lawsuit contended that Brian was working when the accident took place, so that made the employer potentially liable for the harm caused by Brian under a legal rule known by the Latin name of respondeat superior. In order for this to apply, the employee must have been on the job when the incident occurred.

The employer argued that it could not be liable to Andres because Brian was not working when the accident took place. According to the employer, Brian was commuting to work, and the going and coming rule says that, when a worker is traveling to or from work, the law generally does not consider that employee to be “in the course of his employment” (a/k/a on the job).

The trial court ruled for the bus company, but the court of appeal reversed that and revived the bicyclist’s case against Brian’s employer. The appeals court, in its opinion, stated that the jury should decide in this case whether Brian was working at the time or not. The evidence the two sides had presented gave the jury a reasonable opportunity to rule for either party. The jury could conclude that Brian was a traveling salesman, which would mean that he was benefiting his employer at the time of the accident, and Andres was entitled to sue the bus company.

On the other hand, the jury could also reasonably decide that Brian was only working once he left his personal vehicle and began traveling in a rental vehicle provided by the employer. If the jury reached this decision, Brian was commuting, rather than working, when the accident happened, and the bus company would not be liable. Either way, the appeals court opinion means that Andres will get a chance to have his day in court.

When you have been hurt in a vehicle accident, you need skilled advice and representation to make sure that you can overcome the roadblocks that may come your way. The experienced San Mateo bicycle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye & Fitting have been providing this sort of reliable counsel to our clients for many years. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Injured Bicyclist Recovers $4.85 Million Settlement from the City of San Diego for the City’s Failure to Maintain and Repair an Uneven Sidewalk, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 18, 2017

California Bicyclist’s $3.7M Jury Verdict Survives At-Fault Driver’s Appeal, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 24, 2016

Photo Credit: pexels, [CC0 License], via Pixabay