Under the legal theory of respondeat superior, employers are liable for the negligent acts of their employees if they are committed during the course and scope of their employment. But, under the “going and coming rule,” employers are typically exempt from liability for their employees’ careless acts during their daily commute.

What is the Going and Coming Rule?

The going and coming rule exempts an employee from the scope of employment for a tort committed while commuting to and from work. The principle also denies workers’ compensation benefits to an employee who has been injured while traveling to or from work.

In general, an employee is not acting within the scope of his employment while traveling to and from the workplace, but if an employee, while making his commute, is on a “special errand” for his employer, then he is considered within the scope of employment, at least from the time he starts the errand until he finishes it. So, if he negligently injures someone while completing the errand, his employer would likely be held responsible.

Is the Going and Coming Rule Outdated?

While the going and coming rule is fairly straightforward and simple to understand, its application can be quite different. Unlike in previous years when a fixed and ordinary commute was the norm, in current times, traffic congestion, telecommuting, and increased dependence on the Internet can make application of the going and coming rule illogical and at times even unfair.

Whether or not the going and coming rule and its exceptions apply frequently depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case, and a number of claims fall within a gray area and have to be argued in court. Laws like the going and coming rule are continually evolving as new scenarios arise and further analysis uncovers new nuances, understandings, and applications of this sometimes complex doctrine.

Image by Danielle Scott

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