Workers’ Compensation Injury During Lunch Break

Employees typically have the right to receive workers’ compensation for injuries they suffer while performing work tasks. But does workers’ comp also cover injuries during lunch breaks during the workday? While an employee’s lunch break usually falls outside the scope of employment, there are certain situations where an injury sustained at lunch could receive workers’ comp benefits. Contact Stewart Law Offices to learn more.

General Rule on Workers’ Compensation Injuries During Lunch Break

North and South Carolina’s workers’ compensation systems entitle employees to benefits when they suffer injuries “in the course of employment.” An injury occurs in the course of employment when it happens at a place where the worker might reasonably perform their job duties and while that worker is fulfilling their job duties or performing other incidental tasks related to their job-related duties. An injury must also “arise out of” a person’s employment to be covered by workers’ comp. Injuries “arise out of” employment when the person’s job duties lead to or play some part in causing the injuries.

Generally, injuries suffered during a lunch break do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits because those injuries typically do not occur “in the course of employment,” nor do they “arise out of” a person’s employment. The law considers eating meals a personal task unrelated to any job duties performed on behalf of an employer. Furthermore, leaving the workplace to purchase and eat a meal during a break may fall under the “coming and going” rule that precludes workers’ compensation benefits.

Times When You May Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits When You Are Injured While on Break

Although workers’ comp typically does not cover injuries sustained during a lunch break, exceptions exist that could allow you to secure benefits after you are injured in an accident during your lunch break. For example, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation for a lunch break injury if:

  • You were in the break room. When you take your lunch break in an employer-provided break room, any injuries you suffer in the break room may qualify as injuries arising “in the course of employment” since your injuries occurred somewhere you might reasonably perform your job duties.
  • You were running an errand for your employer. When you leave the workplace for a meal during your break, the “coming and going” rule typically bars you from obtaining workers’ compensation benefits for a subsequent injury. However, if you suffer off-premises injuries while running an errand or performing a work task for your employer’s benefit, those injuries could qualify as work-related and entitle you to workers’ comp benefits.
  • An on-duty employee caused your injury. You may have a claim to workers’ compensation benefits for a lunch break injury caused by an on-duty co-worker performing their job duties. For example, suppose a warehouse worker leaving the employer’s premises to get lunch gets hit by a co-worker operating a forklift. In that case, the warehouse worker may have the right to obtain workers’ comp.
  • You have a paid lunch break. Although employers typically give workers unpaid lunch breaks, you may have a claim to workers’ compensation if you are paid for yours.
  • You are on a working lunch. You may have the right to workers’ compensation benefits if you get hurt during a working lunch, such as a lunch combined with an employer presentation or seminar, or if you perform work tasks during your lunch break.
  • You attend a lunch meeting. You may have a claim to workers’ compensation for an injury you suffer during a lunch you have with a client, supplier, or other business partner at your employer’s direction or as part of your understood job duties.
  • You discuss work-related topics with a supervisor or manager during lunch. Discussing work-related topics, such as the progress of tasks or your job performance, with your supervisor or a manager during your lunch break may constitute performing work duties that would bring your lunch within the course and scope of your employment. However, discussing work topics with co-workers during lunch may not constitute the “course of employment.”
  • You attend an employer-sponsored luncheon. Injuries suffered during employer-sponsored luncheons, such as welcome, going-away, or birthday parties, may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
  • You injured yourself while preparing lunch with employer-provided appliances. If your employer provides workers with appliances, such as microwaves, stoves, or ovens, to prepare meals at work, you may have a viable workers’ compensation claim if you injure yourself while using one of these items.

It’s important that you understand your legal rights and options following an injury during lunch. Do not assume that workers’ compensation will not cover your injuries. Workers’ compensation benefits may be able to pay for medical care and replace your wages while you recover from your injuries.

Why You Need to Speak to a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer After an Injury During Your Break

If you’ve been hurt while on a lunch break, your employer will likely deny your claim for workers’ compensation benefits, as lunch break injuries typically do not qualify for workers’ comp. For this reason, you should speak with a workers’ compensation attorney from Stewart Law Offices as soon as possible.

An attorney can investigate your case, review the facts and circumstances of your injuries, and advise you whether you may fall into one of the exceptions to the rule that precludes lunch break injuries from workers’ compensation coverage. An attorney can also help you file a formal workers’ compensation appeal with the state to request a hearing. Your lawyer can prepare and present a compelling case at the workers’ compensation hearing to fight for the financial benefits you need to treat your injuries and return to work. You may also be eligible to file a personal injury claim to help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages if a third party was responsible for your injuries.

If your work injury occurred during a meal break, get the legal help you need to pursue financial benefits in a workers’ compensation claim. Contact Stewart Law Offices today for a free, no-obligation consultation with a dedicated South Carolina workers’ comp attorney to discuss your legal options for pursuing benefits for your injury.