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Telecommuting may become a hassle if you trip over your dog

Are you fortunate enough to have a work-from-anywhere job? Many California companies benefit from having telecommuting employees who are based all over the world while remaining connected 24/7. This culture allows employees to work from any location they choose while it provides companies with a broader scope for attracting talent. It also lowers fixed costs, and different time zones can give 24-hour productivity. However, is there any workers' compensation protection for employees?

Neither you nor your employer may realize the risks that exist in home offices, and you might be wise to confirm workers' compensation coverage with your employer. If your home is your work premises, then the hazards you encounter will be the hazards of your employment, despite the fact that your employer may have little control over the safety of your work environment.

Examples of potentially viable claims

If you suffer an injury while working remotely, you will have to prove that the injury is work-related. Some circumstances in which your employer may be liable for your injuries could include your back injury in a fall when you checked for emails on your smartphone while walking down the stairs to your home office. Or, you stepped out to the garage to retrieve your briefcase from your car and tripped over the dog or slipped in a puddle of water. You fractured your leg or wrist in the fall.

Another potentially valid claim may be for multiple car accident injuries you suffered when you went to see a client. If your job entails you sitting at your desk for long hours, you could develop deep vein thrombosis. This may cause a blood clot that could even lead to your death.

Examples of claims that might not be compensable

If you are hurt while running non-work-related errands or while you are in a coffee shop  -- even if you have set up your laptop there to send some emails, your injuries may not be work-related. Your employer will also not be responsible for your injuries if you got hurt while vacuuming your house or fell from a ladder while washing windows.

Create clear boundaries

Depending on the proximity of your home office to your employer's location, a walk-through by the both of you might be a good start. You can define physical boundaries between home and office areas to avoid complications when workers' compensation benefits come into play. It might also be wise to establish set work hours and an explicit list of activities that fall within your job description. Employers can protect themselves by providing guidelines for safe home offices and by requiring prompt report of injuries and safety hazards that might have to be addressed.

Filing a benefits claim

Typically, workers' compensation benefits cover work-related injury or illness. However, claims are only valid if they arise out of and occur in the course of your employment -- regardless of the location of the incident. "Arising out of" refers to what you were doing at the time of your injury, and "in the course of" refers to when it occurred.

For a successful workers' compensation benefits claim, the burden will be on you to prove that you were acting in your employer's interest when you contracted the illness or suffered the injury. This may be challenging, and you may obtain legal counsel to help with the navigation of your claim.

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