Determining Liability for Injuries Resulting from Travel to Medical Appointments
Esquivel v. WCAB, 74 CCC 1213, is a 4th District Court of Appeal case addressing the geographical limits of an employer’s risk for an injury occurring while traveling to or from a medical appointment for an existing industrial injury.
Applicant was a correctional officer who sustained industrial injuries for which she was receiving medical care and therapy. Applicant’s doctor and therapist offices were located approximately 9 miles and 7 miles from her home.
Applicant was visiting her mother who lived 142 miles away. After her visit, Applicant then drove from her mother’s house to a therapy appointment. During this drive, Applicant was involved in an automobile accident causing injury.
The trial judge found the injuries compensable. This was reversed on reconsideration with the Board panel concluding that the distance from the mother’s house to the therapist’s office was excessive and not within reasonable parameters.
On review, the Court (although conceding that none of the provisions of the Labor Code or implementing regulations contains an express geographic limitation on the employer’s risk) looked to the reasonableness language in Labor Code Section 4600 finding subdivision (c) particularly relevant in its limitation of an employee’s right to treat with a doctor of his or her choosing to “a reasonable geographic area.”
The Court also looked to Rule 9780(h) which, although not containing a definition, provided factors to be considered in determining a reasonable geographic area for purposes of Section 4600.
The Court concluded that the issue should be decided on a case-by-case basis considering the following factors:
- the location of the workers’ residence;
- the location of the workplace;
- the location of the attorney’s office;
- the location of the treating physician’s office;
- the place where the travel related injury occurred;
- the distance between the workers’ point of departure to the physician’s office in a reasonably straight route;
- any additional distance traveled by the worker in deviation from the straight route;
- the availability of treating physician facilities in the field of practice reasonably required to cure or relieve from the effects of the injury;
- the reasons for the worker’s travel beyond a reasonable geographic area.
Applying these factors, the Court found the injuries from the automobile accident not compensable.