Man Who Broke His Back Falling on Stairs From Bed to Home Office Covered by Work Insurance, Court Rules

A German Federal Court recently ruled that a man who broke his back by falling down the stairs from his bedroom on his way to his home office should be covered by his employer’s workplace accident insurance.

According to court documents published last Wednesday, Germany’s Federal Social Court ruled in favor of an unnamed area sales manager who broke his back in an accident that occurred in his home in 2018. The man was allegedly walking down the stairs from his bedroom on his way to his home office when he slipped on his spiral staircase and broke a thoracic vertebra. The plaintiff’s lawyer argued that his client, who typically starts his workday without eating breakfast, was headed for his home work station, which makes his accident work-related and should be covered by insurance.

Photo: succo/Pixabay

Interestingly, online documents show that a lower court had previously ruled that the man’s walk from his bedroom to his home office qualified as “an uninsured preparatory act that only precedes the actual insured activity,” and thus was not covered by work accident insurance. However, the employee appealed the decision to a higher court, which overturned the decision.

Apparently, the Covid-19 pandemic had a part to play in the recent ruling, as the employee pointed out that many people are currently required to work from home in Germany and should be covered by work accident insurance.

The Federal Social Court ruled that in exceptional cases a path to the company can also exist in a domestic area if the apartment and workplace are in the same building. Additionally, the court also considered “whether the employee wanted to carry out an activity serving the company in the performance leading to the accident event.”

Photo: Robystarm/Pixabay

The recent ruling sparked a heated online debate, both in Germany and abroad. While some consider the decision just, seeing as not all work is conducted on company premises – think postmen, deliverymen, garbage collectors, etc. – so workers should be covered by insurance wherever they conduct their work. Others, on the other hand, wondered if this ruling would open the gates to home office inspection by employers, to check for potential hazards.

It’s worth noting that German legislation is different from US legislation and that in the European country even the commute from home to the workplace is covered by accident insurance. In this case, the court merely decided that the man’s walk down the stairs counted as a commute to work.

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