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8. Paralyzed worker was not ‘traveling employee’

8. Paralyzed worker was not ‘traveling employee’

The question of whether a worker living a few states away from home for a project is a “traveling worker” for workers compensation purposes may go before the North Carolina Supreme Court for a decision.  

On Aug. 20, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held in Bache v. Tic-Gulf Coast that a Florida man who was working on a two-year project in North Carolina was not entitled to workers comp for the paralysis he sustained in a car accident following a post-work dinner, according to the ruling filed in Raleigh.   

The story was the eighth most read workers comp story on Business Insurance’s website in 2019. 

Clayton Bache, a heavy machinery operator, agreed to move to North Carolina for the two-year construction of a power plant, and was paid hourly along with a small per-diem housing stipend that allowed him to share a trailer with a co-worker while maintaining his residence in Florida. After work on Jan. 16, 2011, he had dinner and a beer at a restaurant near work. As he was driving back to his trailer, he sustained severe injuries in a single-car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  

He sought benefits, but a deputy commissioner denied his request after holding that Mr. Bache’s travel on the evening of the incident had no business purpose and was entirely personal, and the North Carolina Industrial Commission affirmed the decision. 

In North Carolina, the law states that “employees whose work requires travel away from the employer's premises are within the course of their employment continuously during such travel,” but since the man had moved to North Carolina for the entirety of the project, it was unlike a business trip, said the appellate court.  

The appellate court held that the per diem housing payment Mr. Bache received for moving to North Carolina for the project did not make his off-site injuries compensable under the Workers Compensation Act.  

On Sept. 26, attorneys for Mr. Bache filed a motion for review of the decision with the Supreme Court of North Carolina.