A worker who was injured with providing aid to a car accident victim is entitled to workers compensation benefits, a West Virginia appellate court ruled, overturning a state board’s rejection of the claim.

The Intermediate Court of Appeals of West Virginia decision in Tyler J. Carroll vs. West Virginia Heating & Plumbing Co., held that Tyler Carroll’s supervisor gave implicit authorization for the rescue attempt that led to his injury, effectively making his actions within the scope his employment.

Carroll and his supervisor Leonard Ernie Bragg were returning from a work project on May 4, 2021, traveling together in a company van. As they drove along the interstate, they came upon the scene of a serious vehicle accident. Without hesitation, both Carroll and Bragg immediately stopped the van and rushed out to provide aid to the victim.

In the midst of the chaotic scene, as Carroll attempted to rescue the driver from the wrecked vehicle, another vehicle collided with the accident site, severely injuring Carroll in the process. He suffered multiple fractures to his arms, legs and skull. The damage was so extensive that a week later her underwent a double-amputation of his left leg.

Despite the severe injuries occurring when Carroll stopped to help the accident victim while on the job, his employer’s claims administrator denied his application for workers’ compensation benefits. They stated the position that since Carroll had exited the company vehicle, his injuries were not sustained in the course of his employment. This left the badly injured Carroll not only dealing with a life-altering disability but also without the workers’ compensation coverage he believed he was entitled to.

Legal Issues and Court’s Analysis

The central legal question in this case was whether Carroll’s injuries took place in the course of and arose out of his employment.

To resolve this issue, the appeals court in May 2023 directed the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review (BOR) to ascertain if West Virginia Heating and Plumbing Co. had any policies governing how employees should respond during emergency situations. The appeals court also asked the BOR to determine whether the actions of Carroll’s supervisor, Bragg, amounted to an implicit authorization of Carroll’s rescue attempt.

Upon review, the BOR concluded that Bragg’s conduct did implicitly authorize Carroll’s actions. However, the BOR still deemed Carroll’s workers’ compensation claim to be non-compensable.

Appeals Court Overturned BOR’s Finding

In its May 29, 2024 opinion, the appeals court cited the legal doctrine that “an act specifically or impliedly directed by the master, or any conduct which is an ordinary and natural incident or result of that act, is within the scope of the employment.” Based on this, the court ultimately held that in unique situations such as Carroll’s case, an employer’s implicit authorization can serve to bring the employee’s actions within the course and scope of their job duties for workers’ compensation purposes.

The appeals court ruling sets a precedent in West Virginia that injuries sustained by an employee while attempting a rescue authorized by a supervisor, even implicitly, can be compensable under workers’ compensation. &

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