B.C. woman wins appeal, gets workers’ comp from crash during commute

She was driving an employer-owned vehicle when she crashed on Hwy 1 in Abbotsford on her way to work

A woman has been granted workers’ compensation for a single-vehicle crash while commuting to work in an employer-owned car, reversing a previous ruling from WorkSafeBC.

At the time of the crash, on Feb. 3, 2017, a security co-ordinator with an unnamed federal agency was driving the fleet vehicle – an unmarked police vehicle – on Highway 1 from her home in Vancouver to an office in Chilliwack, where she was to give a presentation.

While driving around 80 to 100 km/h through Abbotsford, at about 9:30 a.m., she lost control in the snow and her vehicle crashed into the median between eastbound and westbound lanes.

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The woman, only referred to as “the appellant” in the recently published B.C. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) ruling, was denied compensation in the original WorkSafeBC ruling, as well as in a review that followed.

At issue in the appeal of the first two decisions was whether or not the commute was considered part of the “course of employment.”

To make a determination, the tribunal looked at nine factors, including whether the task was being done for the employer’s benefit, instructions from the employer, whether equipment was supplied by the employer and whether the commute was part of the job.

In this case, the employee had been granted permission to drive home from the Surrey office the previous day for the sake of efficiency, to better prepare for the Chilliwack presentation the day of the crash.

The agency had strict rules on using fleet vehicles, barring personal use such as groceries, a factor the tribunal member “placed great weight” on. As well, the tribunal noted that the woman was not allowed to keep the vehicle for the weekend, meaning that she had to drive the vehicle to work the day of the crash, despite snowy weather.

At the hearing, the woman showed the tribunal emails from a policy officer with her employer, who deemed that she was on “travel status” at the time of the crash.

The woman testified that her supervisor advised her in fall 2016 not to visit offices during inclement weather after she asked for snow tires for the police vehicle. No money was available at the time for snow tires, and the employer’s investigative report of the crash noted that, although snow tires would have been the safest option, the tires had “sufficient tread.”

As well, the employer noted that even vehicles with snow tires went off the road the day of the crash, and when the woman had left her home that morning it had been snowing but the roads were not affected.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

@dustinrgodfrey

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