Detours vs frolics for job-related injuries: why the difference matters

Your work duties may require you to travel around town or even farther. You probably already know that you can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer an injury while working at your job site or traveling for work. But what if you suffer an injury while on a brief break, such as when you stop for gas or to have lunch? Will your injury still qualify you for workers’ compensation, even though it didn’t occur while you were actively working?

Differences between a detour and a frolic

In legal terms, a detour is a minor deviation from your work duties, but for purposes that are still work-related. For example, stopping to put gas in the company car, stopping to pick up food for an office event, swinging by a store to buy clothes for a business meeting, or visiting a hardware store for an item you need for a work project would likely all count as detours.

Frolics, on the other hand, are deviations from your work duties that serve your personal interests. If you stop by your home briefly to take a quick nap, go to the gym on your lunch break, stop to say hello to a friend on your way back to the office, or things of that nature, your activity is most likely a frolic.

Why it matters

Colorado’s workers’ compensation statute requires your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy to pay you benefits if you suffer an injury – but only if the injury was the result of your job duties. If you suffer an injury while not engaged in the typical responsibilities of your employment, you likely won’t qualify for benefits.

This means that your ability to receive payments for your injury depends on whether a court would determine that you were engaged in a detour or a frolic when the injury occurred. In most cases, injuries suffered during detours still qualify as if they had occurred at your worksite, while those that occur during frolics do not.

Colorado’s workers’ compensation program serves the critical purpose of providing you with the opportunity to receive much-needed financial support after you suffer a work-related injury. Fortunately, that protection also extends to minor detours during your workday, and not simply for when you are physically in the office or on the job site.

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