Colvin v. Giguere: Workers’ Compensation as a Bar to Car Accident Lawsuits

Our Winston-Salem car accident attorneys often hear from potential clients who were injured in a car accident while on the job. It is not always clear whether a plaintiff can recover in a negligence action if they are also eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The North Carolina Industrial Commission provides some guidance on this issue.

van.jpgIn Dana D. Colvin and Shaw Colvin v. Joseph Giguere, the Supreme Court of the State of Utah ruled on this particular issue. Kelly Colvin and Joseph Giguere were both employed by Advanced Millwork Installation (“Advanced”) in Lehi, Utah. Advanced, a custom millwork company, sent Colvin and another employee to Maryland and Virginia to complete custom cabinet installations. Colvin was driving a van owned by the company’s owner. The van had a company logo painted on it, Advance paid the insurance, and Advance listed the van on its company taxes. Colvin was the only driver listed on the van’s insurance policy, and Advance allowed him to use the van for business and also personal use.

Colvin and the other employee were in the Maryland/Virginia area when another employee quit his job. Advance sent Giguere to replace the employee who was no longer working for them. Advance signed an employment contract with Giguere that provided that the company would pay to fly him down to meet Colvin at the job site.

The contract did not provide for any return airfare. Advance’s owner testified that it was understood that Giguere would ride back in the van with Colvin once the job was complete. Right before the project was completed, Advance asked Colvin if he would be willing to assist with a project in Spanish Fork, Utah before returning to his home in Idaho. Colvin accepted the assignment and further agreed to drive Giguere to his home in Springville, Utah in the van and then drive to Spanish Fork.

In an effort to get back to Utah as quickly as possible, Colvin told Giguere that they would drive straight through without stopping to rest. Colvin and Giguere would take shifts driving and sleeping. At around 4:30 a.m. on one of their travel days, Giguere drove as Colvin slept in the front passenger seat. Giguere swerved to avoid what he believed to be a dog on the road, causing the van to roll over and then fall in a ditch. Colvin died in the car accident.

After the accident, Giguere and Colvin’s surviving spouse each filed claims with the insurance company. On the claim form, Giguere stated that he was in the course of his employment when the accident occurred. The insurance company denied both claims on grounds that the car accident was work-related and the parties needed to a file a workers’ compensation claim, rather than a personal injury claim.

Colvin’s wife, through her car accident lawyers, filed a civil law suit against Giguere and the insurance company that alleged that Giguere’s negligent driving caused the accident. The plaintiff alleged that the road was wet and slippery at the time Giguere decided to swerve the van, which was the actual and proximate cause of the Colvin’s death.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and found that both occupants of the car were driving as part of their employment. The intermediary court of appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling and held that the drive to Utah was not work-related for the purposes of the workers’ compensation statute. The Supreme Court of the State of Utah then reversed the earlier decision, finding that, based upon the state statute, their activities were work-related.

Contact the Winston-Salem car accident lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Colvin v. Giguere, June 20, 2014, Supreme Court of the State of Utah
More Blog Entries:

Deer a Fall Hazard for Motorists Involved in Car Accidents in Statesville, Hickory, October 4, 2011, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog

Contact Information