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What does scope of employment mean for workplace injuries?

It is an unfortunate reality that many employees sustain injuries on the job. However, it is not as common as it used to be. Thanks to efforts by federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace injuries have decreased significantly over the last few decades. 

Following an injury, attorneys and insurance agents investigate the matter to see if the company was ultimately negligent. Part of this is determining if the injured employee was within the scope of employment when the accident occurred. There are key things to know about the phrase "scope of employment."

What does it mean? 

Scope of employment refers to where the employee was and what actions were being undertaken when the injury took place. If the employee was within the scope of employment, then the employer would likely be held liable. However, if the employee was outside the scope of employment, then it is harder to prove the employer was negligent. If a worker can answer "Yes" to the following questions, then he or she was more than likely within the scope of employment.

  • Did the injury take place on or near work premises?
  • Did the injury take place during a business trip?
  • Did the injury occur within a company vehicle?
  • Was the employee running an errand for an employer?

Whether or not fatigue contributed to the injury may also be relevant to the scope of employment.

What constitutes being outside the scope of employment?

Outside the scope of employment means the employee was not conducting any official business when the injury took place. As an example, take an employee who needed to run an errand for the boss but visited a friend's house first. That employee then gets into an accident while leaving the friend's house. This would be outside the scope because the worker was not doing anything business-related when the actual injury occurred. In this scenario, it would be much more difficult to prove the employer was the one who was negligent, and it would be more difficult to file a claim.

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