As we have seen, to receive compensation under Iowa Code chapter 85, an injury must “occur in the course of employment,” and an injury that occurs while commuting to or from work does not qualify in general.  However, there are many exceptions to the “going and coming” rule against compensation. 

Employer-provided transport—If the employer supplies the vehicle used for transportation to and from the work, and requires the employee to use it, then the Commissioner usually doesn’t apply the going & coming rule, but considers the commute to be within the course of employment.  For example, sometimes a plumbing or electrician company will issue a company van or truck to employees, and require them to keep the vehicle at home, so that they can leave directly for a service call upon starting work.  If so, then a wreck in the company van on the way home from work will be considered to have occurred in the course of employment. 

Special errands—Even if you are in your own vehicle, you are still in the course of employment if you are traveling at the direction of your employer.  For example, if you run to Staples to buy some office supplies for the boss, at the request of the boss, that is a “special errand” within the course of your employment.  Leaving the employer’s premises where you normally work does not take you out of the course of employment.   

Exceptions to these exceptions—If you are on a special errand, and you deviate from the work-related path in order to run a personal errand, then the Commissioner may rule that you left the course of employment during that deviation, and an injury occurring during the deviation is not eligible for compensation.  However, if you mix personal business with a work errand without deviating from your course, you remain in the course of employment the entire time.  So if, on your trip to Staples, you buy envelopes to use at home, in addition to the supplies for your boss, you are in the course of employment despite the “dual purpose” of your activity. 

Being “on call”—The other big exception to the going & coming rule concerns ‘on call’ employees.  Your commute is not covered by compensation when you are required to present yourself at the workplace for scheduled hours of work.  However, if you are ‘on call’, then an argument can be made that you entered the course of employment upon receiving the phone call telling you to come in to work.  For example, the worker in Quaker Oats v. Ciha, 552 N.W.2d 143 (Iowa 1996) was a repairman who was on call to fix certain machinery in the plant if it went down.  He was on his way to answer a service call when he was injured in a wreck.  His injury was compensated.  If you are called to fill-in on short notice for a missing co-worker, certain details of the circumstances could make this go either for or against compensation.  In one interesting case where compensation was denied, a nurse was sent home upon appearing for work, because of her ill-appearance, and was killed in a wreck on the way home.  The going & coming rule was applied to her case and compensation was denied (Great River Medical Center v. Vickers, #06-1476, Iowa Court of Appeals, 5/14/08). 

Ellis Law Offices is well-versed in this, and other issues concerning the “course and scope of employment” and can assist you in maximizing the opportunity to gain compensation for your injury. 


This information does not develop an attorney-client relationship and is not legal advice.  You should consult with an attorney for advice on any worker’s compensation matter.

Author: Peter M. Sand


Ashley Allen