We’ve written before that your claim can be denied if the risk that caused your injury is one that the general population faces, rather than one you uniquely face because of your employment.
A classic example of this rule is the insect bite case. If you get bitten and injured by a poisonous spider at work, your claim can be denied unless you prove that you were at a greater risk for the spider bite because of your employment. A typical office worker would have trouble proving this. Someone who leads tours through a wooded area with lots of spiders, however, would have an easier time showing that they were more at risk than the general public.
A recent slip and fall case in Illinois brought up this same point. A worker filed a claim against her employer after falling on an uneven gravel surface in the parking lot of the medical center where she worked. She was on break, but that wasn’t an issue because she remained on-call during her lunch break and could be called back at any time.
Her claim was denied because falling on the uneven surface in the parking lot wasn’t related closely enough to her employment. In order for an injury to “arise out of and in the course of” the employment, a worker has to be at a greater risk from the dangerous condition than the general public. The arbitrator ruled that she was not at a greater risk of tripping on an uneven surface than the general public. Also, any member of the public could walk through or park in the lot.
Not every parking lot injury would be denied like this one. If you can prove that you were at greater risk – because the parking lot or specific spots were reserved for employees, for example – you might get a better outcome. This is just one example, which goes to show how much the facts of each individual case can affect the end result.
In another recent case, a child welfare worker was injured in the restroom while on a bathroom break. Someone called her name, and in reacting to being called she ran into a garbage can and fell. Her job required her to answer urgent phone calls and the office was understaffed that day. She testified that she assumed she was being called by her co-worker to take an urgent call. In this case, the worker was awarded benefits because the situation she found herself in was closely related to her employment.
Yet another recent case was about a cashier who worked in the front of a business next to large windows. She was injured by an out-of-control vehicle that smashed into the building. Because she was required to work in the front of the store near the large windows, she was at greater risk of being hit by an out-of-control vehicle than a member of the general public. She was awarded benefits, as well.
We are workers' compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.