Sergeant’s Injury On Way To Medical Treatment Is Compensable Under Workers’ Compensation

Robert Straub is a sergeant with the Scottsbluff, Nebraska Police Department and was employed in that capacity when he suffered injuries as a result of two accidents within a six-week period of time. The first accident occurred on June 25, 2006, when Straub was struck by a passing vehicle during a routine traffic stop.

The accident resulted in a fractured left iliac and lower back complaints with associated soft tissue injuries. Straub’s chosen orthopedist recommended that Straub take some time off of work. Straub did so, and returned to work on Wednesday, June 28, 2006. Straub continued to have pain in his hip, lower back, and mid back, and pain and numbness in his legs.

Straub’s orthopedist ordered an MRI. On August 7, 2006, while on his way to a hospital for the MRI, Straub’s vehicle was hit by another vehicle. Straub had taken the day off from work and had taken his children to a babysitter’s house. The accident occurred between the babysitter’s house and the hospital.

When a Workers’ Compensation Court found that both accidents were work-related and compensable, the City appealed. The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the award of benefits to Straub.

The Court’s rationale was that “the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act provides that if an employee fails to avail himself or herself of medical or surgical treatment, he or she can lose those benefits. We have also allowed compensation for travel to and from necessary medical services in the past. We find that an employee’s injury which occurs en route to a required medical appointment that is related to a compensable injury is also compensable, as long as the chosen route is reasonable and practical.”

There remained the fact that Straub’s journey on August 7, 2006 had a dual purpose – to drop his children off and to go to the hospital. The Court ruled: “Under our dual purpose rule, an injury arising out of a trip with both a business and a personal purpose is compensable if the trip was occasioned by a business purpose. We find that an employee who is injured while en route to a medical appointment for a covered injury is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment, as long as the route taken is reasonable and practical. Straub had completed his personal errand of dropping off his children at the babysitter’s house and was continuing on the business errand of attending his medical appointment.”

Straub v. City of Scottsbluff, 2010 WL 2629841 (Neb. 2010).

This article appears in the September 2010 issue