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Son of worker killed carpooling not eligible to receive death benefits

Son of worker killed carpooling not eligible to receive death benefits

The son of a gas line worker who was killed in an auto accident while carpooling home from work is not eligible for death benefits, the Arkansas Court of Appeals has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the appellate court on Wednesday reversed the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission's decision that an employee of Wayne Holden & Co. Inc. was working at the time of his death.

Tyler Waggoner worked on natural gas pipelines for Texarkana, Texas-based Wayne Holden & Co., according to court records. Mr. Waggoner traveled to different areas to perform his work, primarily working in and around Shreveport, Louisiana.

In November 2013, rain forced Mr. Waggoner to stop work for the day and leave before noon, records show. He left the Shreveport office in a vehicle driven by one of his co-workers. On the way home, a distracted driver rear-ended their stopped vehicle at a traffic light, killing Mr. Waggoner.

In 2014, the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission decided that Mr. Waggoner was working when he was killed and awarded benefits to his minor son, court records show.

The commission said in its ruling that it reviewed numerous cases involving the going-and-coming rule, which states that injuries sustained while commuting to and from work are not compensable.

However, earlier in his employment with Holden, Mr. Waggoner and other employees had been provided a van that picked them up for work, according to court records. That later changed and workers were paid a per diem amount of $50 or more to be used for whatever they wanted. Mr. Waggoner carpooled with other workers to save money, co-workers testified in front of the commission.

On reversing the commission's decision, the unanimous appellate panel wrote that “no facts reasonably connect the $50 per diem to Waggoner's actual time or cost of commuting … he was not performing a special work-related task when the accident occurred … Waggoner was no longer advancing his employer's interests once he finished work, clocked out, and left his place of employment to go home.”

Court documents said that “as a general rule, an employee traveling to and from the workplace is not within the course of his or her employment … but this rule is best used as an analytical tool to be used in making that determination.”

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