Workers’ Compensation Claims consist of two types of injuries, accidental personal injuries and occupational diseases. Accidental Personal Injury
Accidental personal injury is defined as “an accidental injury that arises out of and in the course of employment.” Md. LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT Code Ann. § 9-101(b) (1).
Based upon the above definition, there are three elements to an accidental personal injury: 1) accidental injury 2) arises out of the employment, and 3) in the course of the employment. Harris v. Board of Education of Howard County, 375 Md. 21, 825 A.2d 365 (2003).
With regard to the first element, accidental injury, for years, the Court of Appeals required an unusual activity in order to be a compensable claim. Slacum v. Jolley, 153 Md. 343, 138 A. 244 (1927).
This particular element was eliminated in the case of Harris v. Board of Education of Howard County. Under the plain language of the statute, what must be accidental is the injury and not the activity giving rise to the injury. The Court of Appeals stated in the Harris opinion: “consequently what must be unexpected, unintended, or unusual is the resulting injury and not the activity of which the injury arises”. Id.
In addition to the requirement of an accidental injury, there are two other elements in order to sustain an accidental personal injury and those elements include, arising out of the employment and the second element is in the course of the employment. “Arises out of” refers to the causal connection between the employment and the injury. An injury arises out of employment when it results from some obligation, condition, or incident of employment.
Montgomery County v. Wade, 345 Md. 1, 9-10, 690 A.2d 990, 994 (1996). The phrase ” ‘arises out of’ requires, not that the performance of an employment-related task be the direct or physical cause of the injury, but, more broadly, that the injury be incidental to the employment, such that it was by reason of the employment that the employee was exposed to the risk resulting in the injury.” Mulready v. University Research Corp., 360 Md. 51, 57, 756 A.2d 575, 578 (2000). Livering v. Richardson’s Restaurant, 374 Md. 566, 823 A 2d 687 (2003).
Maryland has adopted the positional-risk test to determine whether an injury arose out of employment. See Mulready, 360 Md. at 66, 756 A.2d at 583; Wade, 345 Md. at 11, 690 A.2d at 994; Knoche, 282 Md. at 455-57, 385 A.2d at 1183-84.
In Mulready, in the context of a traveling employee, we noted that ‘[u]under the positional-risk test, ‘an injury arises out of employment if it would not have occurred if the employee’s job had not required him to be in the place where he was injured.” 360 Md. at 59, 756 A.2d at 579. “An injury arises “in the course of employment” when it occurs: (1) within the period of employment, (2) at a place where the employee reasonably may be in the performance of his duties, and (3) while he is fulfilling those duties or engaged in doing something incident thereto.
Pertinent inquiries include: When did the period of employment begin? When did it end? When was its continuity broken? How far did the employee, during the period of employment, place himself outside the employment? Thus, “in the course of employment” refers to the “place, time and circumstances under which the accident resulting in the injury or death occurs.” Id. Occupational Disease
An occupational disease is an ailment, disorder, or illness which is the result of work under conditions naturally inherent in the employment and which is ordinarily slow and insidious in its origin. What this means is if you work under the same conditions for a long period of time or do the same type of activity over and over again over a long period of time and this eventually causes the body to wear out or causes some disease to occur and if this is very common in the type of work that you do, then these are considered occupational diseases and are a compensable injury covered by workers’ compensation.
Examples of occupational diseases are:
- carpal tunnel
- heart disease
You cannot be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Maryland Law provides that it is actually a criminal offense to fire someone for filing a workers’ compensation claim, subject to one year in jail and One Thousand Dollar ($1,000.00) fine. However, if an employer needs to replace you because your job is essential and they need someone to do the work, they do have the right to replace you and that may result in your job being not available when you return back to work. If you can prove that they fired you specifically for filing the claim only, then you may have a right to file criminal charges, as well as a possible civil suit. If they do replace you, you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation.