Ordinarily, an employee who is injured while off duty isn’t eligible for workers’ compensation for those injuries. But a recent Georgia court ruling has expanded liability to protect at least some employees who are hurt while on call.
Recent case: Sheriff’s deputy Timothy Ray was off duty but on call when he responded to a police emergency. While racing to the emergency in his private car, he collided with fellow deputy Barrett Stevenson’s patrol car.
Stevenson sued Ray for negligence. But Ray argued that the workers’ compensation system was the only place to bring the claim. The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed and dismissed the private lawsuit.
The court concluded that Ray was acting on his employer’s behalf, not as a private citizen, when the collision occurred. So, Stevenson would only be allowed to sue his employer for workers’ comp benefits. Based on this thinking, if Ray had been hurt, he would have been eligible for workers’ comp payments, too. (Stevenson v. Ray, No. A06A1880, Georgia Court of Appeals, 2006)
Final tip: This ruling may cause you to rethink which employees to put on call (and when). Also, set rules that minimize the possibility that employees responding to a call-up will have an accident.