Lunch Time Accidents | Florida Workers’ Compensation

Lunch Time Accidents -- Florida Workers' CompensationAs a general rule, for an on the job injury to be covered under the Florida workers’ compensation act, it must (1) occur in the course and scope of employment and (2) “arise out of” the employment. One interesting scenario presents with lunch breaks and lunch time accidents.

You may ask: how does the law treat lunch time accidents?  Can a person be in the course and scope of employment while they are on their lunch break? The answer is – maybe. Florida courts have held that lunch time accidents on the employer’s premises can be compensable[1].  However, when an employee with a fixed time and place of work leaves the premises for lunch, they are generally outside the course of their employment. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. An off premises lunch time accident may be compensable if the employee was going to conduct business at the lunch. “The operative principle which should be used to draw the line here is this: If the employer, in all the circumstances, including duration, shortness of the off-premises distance, and limitations on off-premises activity during the interval can be deemed to have retained authority over the employee, the off-premises injury may be found to be within the course of employment.”[2] This is most apparent in a working lunch or lunch where the subject to be discussed is work-related.

Similarly, employer condoned breaks off premises may also be compensable. If you examine the case of Mr. Krider. Mr. Krider left his employer’s premises to purchase cigarettes at a convenience store located across the street. He was hit by a car while crossing the street. It occurred during work hours. He had no regularly scheduled breaks, but rather was allowed to attend to his personal comfort during lulls in the employment. Employees generally frequented the convenience store across the street because it had a better selection of goods and was more economical than the onsite vending machine. Under these facts, the First DCA held “An employer-condoned off-premises refreshment break of insubstantial duration is generally not such a deviation as to remove a claimant from the course and scope of the employment. See Cunningham v. Scotty’s Home Builders, 9 FCR 1 (1973), cert. denied, 307 So.2d 182 (Fla.1974). In Cunningham, the claimant was injured while returning from a convenience store at which he purchased food and drink. Although the off-premises trip in the present case was motivated by a desire to purchase cigarettes, we find this distinction to be insignificant. The trip was a foreseeable and non-prohibited refreshment break activity, and employer’s authority over claimant was not significantly dissipated during the course of the trip. As Cunningham indicates, a worker’s attendance to personal comfort during a refreshment break is conducive to the facilitation of the employment, and in the circumstances presented in the present case claimant’s brief off-premises trip did not remove him from the course and scope of his employment.”[3]

As with all Florida workers’ compensation accidents, different facts and circumstances of each employee’s accident can impact the outcome and compensable nature of the claim. As such, if you have a question regarding lunch time accidents, you should contact a Tampa work comp lawyer to discuss your issue. Our Tampa work comp attorneys offer free consultations, and offer in-home consultations if transportation is an issue.

[1] see Doctor’s Business Service, Inc. v. Clark, 498 So. 2d 659, 662 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986).

[2] City of Miami v. Dwight, 637 So.2d 981 (Fla. App. 1 Dist., 1994).

[3] Holly Hill Fruit Products, Inc. v. Krider, 473 So.2d 829, 10 Fla. L. Weekly 1911 (Fla. App. 1 Dist., 1985).