Success Story: Commute Injury That Caused Catastrophic Injuries Proven to be Work-Related
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Gail was a real estate portfolio manager for a major corporation. Her place of work was in San Ramon and her home in Tracy. On a Friday afternoon, she left her office early and headed east on Highway 580. A trailer being pulled by a pickup truck heading west became detached, flew across the freeway, and struck her car head on. As a result Gail has since been wheelchair confined, mentally impaired, incontinent, and incapable of independent living.

When Gail came to us her employer had denied workers’ compensation benefits. Its position was that her injuries occurred during an ordinary commute and were therefore excluded from workers’ compensation coverage by the “Going and Coming” Rule. The construction company that owned the truck and trailer had substantial liability insurance coverage, but it was far from adequate to cover Gail’s past and future medical and assisted living expenses, which are estimated to be approximately $4,000,000. When we interviewed Gail’s husband we learned that the commute during which she was injured was not “ordinary.”

To the contrary, Gail was scheduled to fly to Chicago the following Monday morning to be a presenter at a company educational seminar. The following items were inside of her car when she was injured: her laptop computer, two large, three ring binders containing material relevant to the presentation, her briefcase, her company cell phone, and some large sheets of presentation outlines. Earlier in the week Gail had told her husband that she would have to break their longstanding agreement and work at home on Saturday preparing for the presentation.

The employer never made an offer of settlement, so we briefed the matter and went to trial at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. The Board found these facts sufficient to create a “Special Mission Exception” to the “Going and Coming” Rule and held that Gail’s injuries arose out of and occurred in the course of her employment. Her employer sought judicial review by the Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court. Both were denied. As a result Gail’s employer must pay medical expenses of over $500,000 that were not paid by its group health plan, and it must pay all of the future costs of Gail’s treatment and care. In addition, her employer will have to pay Gail $490 a week for life, beginning on the day following the injury.

We cannot conclude without mentioning Gail’s husband Paul, a remarkable man. He was an active participant in every aspect of her rehabilitation and therapy, has provided as much care at home as was humanly possible, and continues to love and care for his wife. Although he has expressed sadness for Gail and himself, not once has he expressed anger or bitterness, and the strong faith the two of them shared before the accident remains intact.