Las Vegas POA

Officer’s Injuries While Commuting Covered By Workers’ Comp

Written on 11/06/2020
Will Aitchison

David Figueroa is a police officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). After being absent from work for an extended period due to injury, Figueroa was assigned to a re-acclimation program where he performed his duties using a standard patrol car. Upon completion of the re-acclimation program, Figueroa was set to resume his duties as a traffic officer, which mandated his riding a motorcycle.

On March 7, 2015, Figueroa was scheduled to work until 12:30 a.m., when his sergeant informed him at 11:45 p.m. he could leave early for the day. Although he would still be paid for the remainder of his shift, Figueroa could start his commute home earlier than normal. However, the commute was not a normal one.

Figueroa rode his personal motorcycle to work that day, and his sergeant instructed him to get some “seat time” on his way home. Seat time in this context means to practice riding a motorcycle. Figueroa’s sergeant also told him to stay close to his phone in case they tried to contact him. Additionally, although he was given an early out for the day, because Figueroa was still “on the clock” and getting paid, he was required to abide by LVMPD’s employment policies, such as refraining from consuming alcohol.

Five minutes before Figueroa’s shift was originally scheduled to end and when Figueroa was approximately a mile and a half from the police station, he was struck by another vehicle. Figueroa was placed in a medically induced coma for six days given the severity of his injuries. Following the accident, Figueroa was unable to work for approximately a year and a half.

When the employer denied Figueroa’s workers’ compensation claim, he challenged the denial in the Nevada Supreme Court. The Court held that Figueroa’s claim was valid.

The case turned on the intricacies of what is known as the “going and coming” rule, which precludes compensation for most employee injuries that occur during travel to or from work. The going and coming rule has exceptions. One exception, known as the “law enforcement exception,” recognizes that law enforcement officers generally possess a responsibility to enforce the law while traveling on public roads, so the injuries they sustain while traveling may be compensated.

The Court found that Figueroa fell within the law enforcement exception, reasoning that “the Court must look to the totality of the circumstances on a case-by-case basis in determining whether the law enforcement exception applies. Applying the totality-of-the-circumstances test to Figueroa’s accident, it is clear he qualifies for the law enforcement exception.

“First, at the time of the accident, Figueroa was still on the clock, and thus being paid. While this fact alone does not render Figueroa’s claim compensable, it is certainly one relevant circumstance we must consider. Because Figueroa still had time remaining on his shift, he was unable to consume any alcohol pursuant to the Department’s employment policies. This fact illustrates that the Department was still exerting a certain degree of control over Figueroa at the time of his accident, supporting the conclusion that he was within the course and scope of his employment.

“Finally, at the time of the accident, Figueroa was fulfilling his sergeant’s order to get ‘seat time.’ As a result, Figueroa was not fully discharged from all his responsibilities for the day. Instead, this circumstance illustrates Figueroa was performing a work assignment and was still under the control of his employer.”

Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. v. Figueroa, 2020 WL 4376790 (Nev. 2020).

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