What is a Compensable Injury Under the Workers’ Compensation Act?

The Workers’ Compensation Act provides for disability benefits in Maryland. To qualify for such an award, a claimant must be a “covered employee” who incurs a qualifying disability, either by way of an accidental injury or occupational disease.  L&E § 9-101.

9-101(b)(1) of the Labor and Employment Article (“L&E”) defines an “accidental personal injury.” In order to be compensable, an injury must “arise out of and in the course of employment.” Determining whether an injury arises out of the employment is, in essence, a but for inquiry.  See Roberts v. Montgomery County, 84 A.3d 87, 95-96 (Md. 2014) (citing Livering v. Richardson’s Restaurant, 374 Md. 566 (2003); Mulready v. University Research Corp., 360 Md. 51 (2000)).  Also regarded as the “positional-risk test,” the standard in Maryland is that “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.”  Livering, 374 Md. at 575-76 (quoting Mulready, 360 Md. at 57).

Injuries arise out of employment if determined to be an “incident” of employment.  Id.  The same can be said of an injury that occurs “in the course of employment.”  That is, an injury occurs “in the course of employment ‘when it occurs during the period of employment at a place where the employee reasonably may be in performance of his or her duties and while fulfilling those duties or engaged in something incident thereto.’”  Id. at 577 (citing Montgomery County v. Wade, 345 Md. 1, 11 (1997)) (emphasis added).

L&E § 9-101 also provides the applicable definition of an “occupational disease,” another type of compensable injury under the Act. Pursuant to subsection (g), an occupational disease is one that occurs “as the result of and in the course of employment,” and which “incapacitates” the covered employee. The inquiry focuses on the “last injurious exposure” that a covered employee had to the cause of a disease.

Accidental Personal Injury caused by Third Party need not ‘arise out of employment’

To be compensable under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”), the general rule is that an accidental personal injury must arise out of and in the course of employment . However, according to § 9-101(b)(2) of the Labor and Employment (“L&E”) Article, “an injury caused by a willful or negligent act of a third person directed against a covered employee in the course of the employment of the covered employee” is also compensable under the Act. Thus, unlike the general definition, an accidental personal injury caused by a third party need not “arise out of employment” in order to be compensable; rather, the injury must only occur during the course of one’s employment.  See, e.g., Doe v.Buccini Pollin Group,Inc., 201 Md. App. 409, 425-27 (2011) (discussing Edgewood Nursing Home v. Maxwell, 282 Md. 422 (1978); Giant Food, Inc. v. Gooch, 245 Md. 160 (1967)).

Included in the definition of “a third person” are the co-workers of a covered employee, as well as individuals wholly unrelated to the employment. Notwithstanding that workers’ compensation is said to be the “exclusive remedy” for most employment-related disabilities, an injured employee may bring suit against a third party that is in addition to a claim for compensation against an employer. This is commonly referred to as a third-party claim.