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Workers’ comp doesn’t cover accidents that occur after hours, off premises

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Employers may be responsible for injuries that occur in the employee parking lot or on company premises after employees have clocked out for the day. However, New Jersey courts draw the line at the end of the employer’s property line.

Employees who are hurt after they turn into public streets or areas over which their employers don’t have exclusive control can’t claim their injuries are work-related if they are not on company business.

Recent case: Yakup Acikgoz and John Lowden, both employees with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, crashed into each other while traveling in their personal vehicles. Lowden was approaching the employee parking lot, while Acikgoz, who had clocked out after his shift, had just left the parking lot. Their cars collided on an access road leading to the turnpike authority facility.

Since Lowden had been driving in the wrong lane, Acikgoz sued him for his injuries. Lowden tried to argue that the case belonged in the workers’ comp system. He wanted the court to dismiss the personal lawsuit against him. He claimed that both were still on company business since he was on his way to pick up his paycheck and Acikgoz was driving on an access road not generally open to the public.

The court didn’t buy the argument. It said that the access road was open to the public and therefore was not part of the workplace. Besides, Acikgoz was simply commuting home, and picking up a paycheck wasn’t part of Lowden’s job. Unless the two had collided in the parking lot, it wasn’t a workers’ comp issue. (Acikgoz v. New Jersey Turnpike and Lowden, No. A-1758-06T3, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, 2008)

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