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Accidental Death Benefits and the “Mutual Benefit Doctrine”

Accidental Death Benefits and the “Mutual Benefit Doctrine”

Under the “mutual benefit doctrine,” an injury suffered by an employee while performing an act for the mutual benefit of both the employer and the employee is compensable when some advantage to  the employer results from the employee’s conduct. The doctrine applies even when the advantage to the employee is slight. Missouri courts have applied the doctrine in cases involving employees who frequently travel on behalf of their employer. Upon a finding of a mutual benefit between employer and employee, a court will likely award death benefits to an employee’s survivors.

In a recent case, a court held that an employee’s survivors were eligible for death benefits when the employee was killed in a motorcycle accident while returning from his home to pick up his dirty uniforms for work. The uniforms were scheduled to be picked up by a cleaning service the following day. At trial, the employer admitted that having his employees wear uniforms on the job was beneficial for business because it “sets an image for the business” which is a “good one.” The court found that the employee’s trip arose out of and in the course of his employment under the mutual benefit doctrine.

If you are the beneficiary of an accidental death and dismemberment plan or the survivor of a loved one who was killed on the job, you should consult an attorney to hear about your recovery options.

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