RCW 51.08.013 Acting in the Course of Employment and Exclusion of Parking Lot Injuries Under Workers’ Compensation

The Industrial Insurance Act expressly excludes parking lot areas from coverage under the Act and disassociates them from the legislative definition of what constitutes a jobsite for purposes of workers’ compensation.   The parking area exception is not, however, an absolute bar to industrial insurance coverage. The appropriate question is whether the parking lot injury occurred while the employee was acting in the course of his or her employment or at the direction of the employer when an injury occurs in a designated employee parking lot/area.

The parking lot claim exclusion can be a silver lining with a cloud, however.  If the claim is excluded from coverage under the Act, there may, nevertheless, be civil liability if the parking lot is shown to be negligently maintained.  Whereas an L&I claim has a defined set of benefits, under personal injury law, recoverable damages is theoretically unlimited.

During the fall and winter months, we see an increase in parking lot injuries to staff simply due to weather changes; resulting in the build-up of wet leaves in the fall and ice, snow, and poor lighting in the winter.

Although true parking lot injuries are excluded from coverage, under the workers’ compensation law, a non-covered parking lot injury can still result in a significant financial burden to both the employee and employer, to include loss of income to the employee and additional cost to the employer who has to hire and train replacement or agency staff, and do not forget the aforementioned negligence liability exposure to the employer.

To prepare for the upcoming fall and winter months, we recommend you review and initiate the following:

  • Schedule maintenance to check the parking areas on an hourly basis, during inclement weather, and remove the buildup of leaves, snow, and ice.
  • Order now: confirm your maintenance staff has deicing products, snow blowers that are in good working order. Also make sure that they have and are wearing appropriate footwear, such as moose-track shoes, while maintaining parking lots, walkways, and entrances into the facility.
  • Schedule your lighting timers to come on earlier in the evenings and mornings to assure adequate lighting in the parking areas and walkways. Replace outdated lighting if coverage is poor or faulty.
  • Order now: Install or purchase adequate signs/notices/barriers in the parking lots, entryways and employee break rooms reminding employees to wear appropriate footwear coming in to work and leaving work. The shoes an employee may wear during working hours may not be appropriate for entering and exiting the facility while navigating walkways and parking lot areas.
  • Schedule: painting or repainting of curbs, walkways and entryways with adequate reflective paint for hazards such as uneven pavement or sidewalks.

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Questions? Please reach out to your assigned Claims Consultant or Scott DeHem, VP of Claims at Risk Finance, at scott@riskfinance.net