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Guards Injured Off Duty Assisting Accident Victims Not Entitled to Benefits

Ryan Pettigrew petitioned for a writ of review in the Third District California Appellate Court when he was denied workers' compensation after being injured while helping victims and guards at the scene of a traffic accident. The court affirmed the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) decision that he was not within the course and scope of his employment at the time.

Pettigrew stopped on his way to work to assist victims and fellow guards at a multi vehicle accident. He was flung into the air and across the freeway after an oncoming car hit the vehicle of the victim he was assisting. He received the Rotary Club Officer of the Year Award for his actions. Pettigrew was denied workers' compensation benefits because he was not at work when he was injured. After the WCAB denied reconsideration of his claim, he filed a petition for writ of review. He stated that his Ethics Cadet Workbook and his sworn oath required him to "safeguard lives and property," that his "primary concern is to serve mankind," and that he had a duty to help his fellow guards.

On review, the California Court of Appeals held that Pettigrew failed to show grounds for reversal of the WCAB's decision. Further, as the WCAB noted, off duty police officers receive certain benefits under the California Labor Code § 3600.2, but the statute excludes corrections officers and Pettigrew wasn't responding to a declared emergency under Government Code §§ 8597 or 8598. See: Pettigrew v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, 143 Cal.App.4th 397, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 922 (Cal.App. 3 Dist., 2006).

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Related legal case

Pettigrew v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board