Up to now, it has seemed that the definition of an accident in itinere is clear, which means it is an accident caused to workers when travelling to or from their workplace, its interpretation having been developed by numerous judgements and a series of requirements having been determined that, in all cases, must be met for it to be deemed to exist.
However, the judgement of 5-7-2022 ruled by the Labour Division of the High Court of Justice of Murcia applied a much broader interpretation than the one usually used for and accident in itinere.
What were the circumstances in that case?
The case analysed by the High Court of Justice of Murcia was related to a worker who, at 7.30 a.m. one morning when he was ready to go to work, slipped on the steps leading out of the door of his home but that were inside the building, without him having yet reached outside, his working hours beginning at 8 a.m., resulting in such accident being the start of a Temporary Disability process.
Afterwards the Spanish Social Security Institute adopted a decision declaring that the accident was not of an occupational temporary disability type and, since the worker did not agree with such decision, he decided to file a claim to rule a contingency had arisen, which was assigned to the Labour Court Number 1 of Murcia.
This court dismissed the claim filed by the worker, ruling that the accident was not of an occupational type, which resulted in him filing the relevant appeal for reversal, alleging that Article 156 of the Spanish General Social Security Act (LGSS) had been infringed because, in his opinion, the accident had occurred while he was on his way to work, as required by virtue of the regulations.
What was the interpretation of the High Court of Justice?
The High Court of Justice of Murcia made a verbatim interpretation of the aforementioned regulation since legal ground three of the judgement states that, as the worker had begun his journey to his work centre, both the time and topographic requirements were met, since the time the accident occurred meant it could be considered that the worker was on his way to work, even if it took place inside and not outside his individual space.
However, in any case he had in fact left his home it hence admitted the appeal and ruled that the accident caused to the plaintiff must be considered an occupational accident.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the facts analysed could indeed meet the teleological, topographic, mechanical and chronological requirements that have been applied by the Spanish courts when dealing with issues related to an accident in itinere.
However, the fact is that we are faced with one of the more unusual cases. Most cases of accidents in itinere ruled by the Spanish courts have dealt with accidents taking place on the journey from the workers’ homes to their work centres, but this time, unlike the previous cases, in the proceedings ruled by the High Court of Justice of Murcia, the accident occurred before the worker even left the building where he lived.
What can we expect?
The ruling of the High Court of Justice of Murcia is, to say the least, quite surprising since it has implied a broadening of the framework within which it can be considered there is an accident in itinere and we cannot overlook that if the contingency of an accident is ruled as occupational, there would be a series of consequences for the employer and the possible implications of these would not be a mere trivial matter.
The importance of this judgement means there will be more workers who will try to take advantage of these kinds of situations to consider an accident in itinere.
Moreover, it should be pointed out that these situations could raise certain doubts, above all regarding the development of the facts that led to the possible accident caused to the worker, because determining factors, such as the time when the accident occurred or whether or not the worker had begun his journey to his workplace, will be much more complicated than in clear cases such as traffic accidents.
We should bear in mind that it is still to be seen whether or not such interpretation of the High Court of Justice of Murcia will be accepted by the Supreme Court or even whether or not it will be applied by other courts but, in any case, good legal and labour advice is always necessary if situations arise like the one analysed by the High Court of Justice of Murcia.
Therefore, please do not hesitate to contact the Employment law advisory service of RSM Spain should any claims of this kind be filed so that we can advise and help you.