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Can workers' compensation be claimed for cellphone-related injuries?

When a construction worker is injured on the job, he or she can seek workers' compensation benefits to help with things like medical expenses. But how do courts define "work-related injuries" or determine whether an injury occurred during the course of employment? The answers to those questions can dictate whether an injured worker will receive workers' compensation.

What about when an injury results from cellphone use? As more and more employees are required to rely on their cellphones to keep in touch with their employers, it is no surprise that this has become a topic of discussion.

Specifically, one case has received media attention. It involves a nurse who was injured after getting into a car crash. She had been on call with her employer who would let her know via pager, then cellphone, then home phone if she was needed at the hospital.

She was driving in the evening when she noticed that she was getting a call on her cellphone. In that moment, she lost control of the car and crashed into the side of the road. She sustained a number of injuries that left her with several thousand dollars of medical expenses. She filed for workers' compensation and was granted enough to compensate her for the medical bills.

But her employer appealed arguing that the accident was the result of the cellphone and should not be considered a workers' compensation case.

The court recently affirmed the workers' compensation award. The court's reasoning was that in this specific case, the woman's injury was the result of her job. But the court was also careful to note that not all cellphone-related injuries or accidents in connection with employment are automatically considered workers' compensation cases.

And while this particular case is not intended to set any precedent for future claims, it does raise some interesting issues that surround cellphone use and professions that rely on this type of immediate communication.

Source: The Washington Times, "Workers' comp case upheld in cellphone-related crash," David Sherfinski, Oct. 9, 2011

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