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Worker denied comp after crash on dead-end detour


A South Dakota worker who crashed his vehicle while taking a dead-end detour on the road to his office can’t receive workers compensation benefits for his injuries because the brief side trip took him outside the scope of his employment, the South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled.

Aaron Terveen was a journey transportation technician for the South Dakota Department of Transportation in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and had traveled 840 miles to Yankton, South Dakota and back for business in November 2011, court records show. During his return trip, he texted his wife that he planned to meet her for dinner around 6:45 p.m. near his home office at the transportation department.

However, Mr. Terveen was injured in a one-car accident that happened on a dead-end side road between 6:30 and 7 p.m. that evening, records show. The accident site was about 2½ miles from his office, and Mr. Terveen could not recall why he was at the location where the accident happened.

Court filings note that Mr. Terveen held an additional part-time job repossessing cars, and that he may have been investigating a vehicle that was set to be repossessed at an address on the side road. However, he did not have a repossession order for the vehicle at the time of his accident, and no vehicles with the account Mr. Terveen had been suspected of researching were ever recovered.

Mr. Terveen applied for workers comp benefits, and the South Dakota Department of Labor determined that he suffered a compensable injury arising out of and in the course of his employment, records show. However, the Hughes County, South Dakota, circuit court reversed that decision and dismissed Mr. Terveen’s claim, finding that his injuries did not arise out of his employment with the department of transportation.

On appeal from Mr. Terveen, the South Dakota Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the circuit court’s ruling and denied benefits for Mr. Terveen.

While the South Dakota transportation department allows employees to take side trips for personal reasons during work-related travel, the high court found that Mr. Terveen was not engaging in work-related travel at the time of his accident.

Even “though Terveen’s deviation could have taken 10 minutes in total, going down a dead-end road without a defined reason for personal comfort or explanation, such as getting lost, was a substantial deviation removing Terveen from being within the course of his employment,” the ruling reads.

“Due to Terveen’s lack of explanation, there is no way of knowing what caused Terveen to travel down Prairie Hills Road,” the ruling notes.

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