Off-duty Police Officer Injured in Squad Car while running Personal Errands entitled to Workers’ Comp

In Montgomery County v. Wade, 345 Md. 1 (1997), the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that an off-duty police officer incurred a compensable injury while traveling in her personal patrol vehicle (“PPV”), despite the fact the officer was operating her PPV for purely private purposes.  The question before the Court was whether such conduct “arose out of” and occurred during “the course of” the officer’s employment.

In order to be compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, a Claimant must establish a sufficient causal connection between the injury and employment.  “An injury is said to ‘arise out of’ one’s employment when it results from some obligation, condition, or incident of the employment.”  Wade, 345 Md. at 9-10 (internal citations omitted) (emphasis added).  In Wade, the Court concluded that the officer’s use of her PPV “was clearly incidental to her role as a patrol officer,” primarily because Montgomery County encouraged off-duty use of PPVs for the purpose of increasing police visibility throughout the County.  Id. at 10-11 (“Officer Wade would not have been operating a PPV but for her employment . . . .” (emphasis added)).

Not only do injuries “arise out of” employment if determined to be an “incident” of employment, but the same can be said for an injury that occurs during “the course of” employment.  In other words, 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 11 (emphasis added).  Further, “[i]f the injury occurred at a point where the employee was within the range of dangers associated with the employment, it is held compensable under the Act.”  Id. at 12.

In Wade, the nature of employment required the officer to carry out her duties as a patrol officer through the use of a marked police cruiser.  “Incident to that use, the department, by virtue of its unique program, permitted eligible officers to retain possession of the vehicle in furtherance of the objectives it set forth”; namely, an increased police presence in the community.  Id.  Therefore, the Wade Court found “that a business purpose—at minimum, a visual deterrent to criminals—is furthered each and every time an officer chooses to employ his or her PPV on the streets of Montgomery County.”  Id. a 14 (applying the “dual purpose doctrine” and concluding that “because both a business and personal purpose were being served on the day in question, Officer Wade’s use of her PPV was within the course of her employment.” (emphasis added”)).