Could Your Comp Claim Get Denied because of Technology?
It goes without saying that technology is a big part of everyday life. For some, it can involve work tasks such as entering data or operating big machines. Consequently, there is always the possibility that technology can cause an employee to sustain injury. Or, in some cases, technology can be used to discredit a workers’ compensation claim.
Think about it. Gone are the days that employees manually signed into work. Thus, technology can document whether a worker was actually on the job. Similarly, shop cameras can determine whether or not someone slipped and fell in the warehouse.
However, let’s take this a step further. A recent New Jersey case deals with the potential denial of a workers’ compensation claim. The reason? Let’s blame it on technology.
Workers’ Compensation Claim Denied
In a prior article, we reviewed a number of reasons that workers’ compensation claim can be disputed. Sometimes, the reason is quite basic. The employer may suggest that the accident never happened. Or, that the worker was not engaged in the course of their employment when the incident occurred.
For an example of how technology can work against a claimant, let’s go back to the case we referenced above, Longstreet v. County of Mercer, A-3361-152 (App. Div. June 20, 2017.
At the time of the alleged accident, Alan Longstreet was a heavy equipment operator, employed by the County of Mercer. The incident involved clean-up after a winter storm. Longstreet claimed he was injured while using a road grader to plow snow. The accident occurred at approximately 4:00 am.
Prior to using the road grader, Longstreet started his shift by operating a front end loader to load salt. Since he came into work at approximately 7:00 pm, Longstreet did this for several hours until moving over to snow plowing. The latter began at about midnight.
The petitioner stated that the accident happened on a particular road grader when the equipment may have hit a manhole cover. Longstreet subsequently delivered the grader to the County repair shop. The blades needed changing.
The County disputed the accident and used technology to do so. The road grader was fitted with a GPS system. According to records, the particular piece of equipment was stationary when Longstreet claimed accidental injury. In fact, it was idle from 2:00 am until 6:38 am. To top it off, the road grader was not at the location where the accident occurred.
At the lower court level, the judge found the case compensable. It was possible that the petitioner was using a different machine at the time of the accident. As a matter of fact, it was noted that Longstreet did bring in another vehicle to the repair shop. And, that blades were replaced on that machine.
Nevertheless, the Appellate Division did not agree with the workers’ compensation court’s ruling. Based on the GPS tracking, Longstreet was not using the particular machine he claimed. Therefore, he could not have suffered accidental injuries on it.
In this case, technology was for the win on the part of the employer.