When Is a Kansas Work-Related Injury within the Scope of Employment? [Part I]

While most Kansas workers compensation claimants may be aware that financial compensation for on-the-job injuries does not require fault by the employer, this does not mean that all workplace injuries are covered.  An important requirement for a work-related injury to be covered by workers compensation benefits is that the injury occur within the “scope of employment.”  While some situations fall squarely within the scope of employment, such as an employee falling from a ladder while installing a new roof while employed by a construction company, many situations are not so straightforward.

There are many disputed workers compensation claims that turn on the subtle difference between a “detour” and a “frolic.”  Essentially, these cases involve situations where the employee is away from the workplace, making the purpose of the excursion critical to determining the applicability of workers compensation coverage.  In simply terms, a frolic refers to an activity that is a significant departure from an employee’s job duties which has no connection to the employment relationship.  By contrast, a detour may be for the benefit of the employee but does not constitute a significant deviation from tasks that benefit one’s employer.

The notion of evaluating whether a task is within the scope of employment is derived from the law regarding vicarious liability, which refers to the legal responsibility of one individual for the negligence of another based on the nature of the relationship.  For example, an employer whose employee hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk while driving to the bank to make a deposit for the employer may be vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver.  Conversely, an employee who leaves work on his or her lunch break to travel an hour away and purchase concert tickets for his or her paramour may not expose an employer to vicarious liability.

The legal concept of determining whether an injury occurs within the scope of employment also applies when assessing whether an injury is covered by workers compensation law.  The distinction between a frolic and mere detour can be extremely subtle despite the enormous impact this designation can have on a workers compensation claim.  There are a wide range of factors that may be relevant to the distinction between a frolic and a detour.  We encourage you to review Part 2 of this blog which provides an analysis of the difference between these two legal concepts.

If you or someone close to you has suffered a work-related injury, experienced Kansas workers compensation lawyer Michael R. Lawless can help you pursue medical treatment, lost income and benefits for permanent disability.  Our Lenexa, KS workers compensation law firm is dedicated to balancing the scales of justice so that you can obtain the compensation that you deserve.  We invite you to call us toll free at 1-800-734-3771 or visit our website and submit a case inquiry form today.