Employment Law

Workplace accidents and German employment law

A social security tribunal in Germany has ruled that falling down the steps after collecting an employer’s post can be classed as a workplace accident and is therefore an insurable risk (judgment from 17.05.13, Az. S 3 U 2912/12).

Sturz auf Treppe kann Arbeitsunfall sein. © arahan-Fotolia

Sturz auf Treppe kann Arbeitsunfall sein. © arahan-Fotolia

Background facts

The fact that collecting company post is an activity which is classed as work is not surprising. This case, however, was peculiar in that the employee’s private apartment was in the same building as his employer’s premises.

The 58 year-old claimant in the case was the owner-employee of a car-repair garage. He also traded spare parts and ran a taxi company.

The garage was located on the ground floor of the premises. The owner’s private apartment and the taxi firm’s office were located on the first floor. The floors were connected by a staircase which was used for both business and private purposes.

The employee explained that he regularly collects the post at around 2 pm after finishing his shift in the garage and takes it up the stairs to the office where his wife, who is also employed by the garage, processes it.

Whilst making his way up the stairs the owner tripped on a step, fell and broke his right shin. He had to undergo several operations to repair his leg.

The owner claimed on his employers’ liability insurance which made an initial advance payment of 5,000 euros, but refuted that the events amounted to a workplace accident. The insurance company argued that the owner had already ended his shift when he went to collect the post.

Workplace accident

The social security tribunal ruled in favour of garage owner.

In applying § 8 of Germany’s Social Security Act VII, the judges held that as the employee had used the shared staircase and only thoroughfare to the company office to collect company post, he had used it for business reasons. His accident was therefore workplace-related. As a result, the owner-employee was entitled to claim on the employers’ liability insurance.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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