Break-Time Injuries In Illinois Work Comp

Some break-time injuries may be covered under Illinois workers’ compensation insurance, just as though you were in the middle of a job task.  Under certain circumstances, even where you are doing something that is for your own personal needs, like eating or using the restroom, an accident could be considered employment-related.

Generally to be covered under workers’ compensation, you need to be engaged in the work of your employer at the time of the accident.  But when you are taking a break for some expected activity that involves your own personal comfort or health, you are still actually serving the needs of your job.  In order to properly perform your job duties, it is necessary to eat, use the bathroom, warm up or cool off, and other such activities.  For this reason, these are not necessarily considered to be off-the-clock.

A recent Illinois workers’ compensation case is a perfect case for showing how personal comfort activities can be covered as work time.  It involved a firefighter who was required by his job to complete paramedic training at a particular hospital.  The employer paid for the training and any expenses.  He was able to take this course during his regular shift time.  The firefighter was injured while hurrying to the cafeteria for a quick breakfast break while he was at the hospital for the training.   He was moving fast so he would not miss any ambulance calls.  Also, he slipped, because the stairway was littered with spilled food from other workers rushing from the cafeteria for emergency situations.

All the parts of this fact situation fit well within the considerations for a break-related accident being counted as a work-related accident for workers’ compensation coverage.  The firefighter was where he was because he was required to do the training; and he was required to do it at that particular place.  His employer was paying for the activity as well.  He was taking a brief break for eating, which is a necessary act of personal comfort.  The actual accident was caused by two things, both which were related to the emergency nature of the job:  his rushing quickly down the stairs; and the spilled food that he slipped on.

If he had done something to cause the accident that was unusual or not expected by his employer, the outcome might have been different.   But here, everything that the firefighter did before and during the accident was expected and related to his job duties.  In situations like these, even activities that are part of a break, do not necessarily break the chain from being work-related for workers’ compensation coverage.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

1/5/12

Illinois work comp and pre-existing conditions

A readers asks:

I had an eye injury while on the job.  It was a workman's comp case and the case was settled.  I
have been back to work for several years now but I've had four surgeries since the settlement and it's possible that I might lose my eye-site in the eye that was injured (it was fine for a couple years
but this is no longer the case).  Because I "settled" my case, am I able to reopen it or sue again if
my condition worsens or I lose some or all of my eye sight?

 

This person is probably out of luck because it doesn't sound like they have had a recent new injury or aggravation of the pre-existing condition.  Once you settle a case you almost always close out your medical rights as relates to that injury.  If you wake up one day with a problem then it's not a work comp issue unless your job has somehow aggravated that pre-existing condition.

Here is an easy example.  Client of ours had back surgery from a job injury and settled his case.  Five years later on the job he slipped in a puddle of water and now had to have a back fusion.  Because his pre-existing condition was aggravated we were able to win benefits for him.

On the flip side, had he hurt himself at home or just woken up with back pain that was not made worse by his job there would have been nothing we could do.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.

"Is this an Illinois workers' compensation claim?"

Two recent scenarios we were presented with that have come up a bunch in the past:

#1 I was sitting at my desk all day, got up to stretch my legs and bent down to tie my shoe.  When I stood back up my back popped ad now I'm out of work with a herniated disc.

That unfortunately does not sound like a case as nothing about the job contributed to the accident.  If you are not at an increased risk at work for having an injury than you would be anywhere else then it is not a case.

Compare that with this:

#2 I had a pre-existing back injury for which I was off work.  My last MRI showed a bulging disc in my back at the L4-5 level.  The original injury was not work related.  First day back I picked up a box, felt a strain and now have a herniated disc per a new MRI.

That is a case because it is work related and even though the condition was pre-existing, the MRI's make clear that the job accident caused the problem to get worse.

 We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywher in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact Us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

Is this a work related injury? Recent examples from Chicago

Here are five recent examples from people who have asked us if they have work injury:

I am a teacher and we were allowed to bring in food for the last day of school.  I ordered pizza and when I went to the front of the school to get it, I tripped (couldn't see where I was going b/c of the pizza) and broke my ankle.  The insurance company says that since I wasn't required to get pizza and it's not a part of teaching that I don't have a case.  We think it is likely a case since the school was aware that it was happening and we believe that the school benefits from these parties taking place.

I am a pizza delivery driver.  I made a delivery to a party and since I new the kids having a party I ended up having a bunch of drinks.  I crashed the car on my way back to work and got a DUI, plus a concussion from when my head hit the window.  Do I have a case?  Even though you were driving for work, we think the act of getting drunk ends the chances of a winning case.

I went to the company Christmas party and while dancing I slipped and hurt my knee.  Assuming that it was not mandatory for you to attend the party, typically injuries sustained at work parties are not covered.

I was at a conference in Vegas.  After the conference we went to dinner and then dancing.  I didn't drink anything, but some drunk guy plowed in to me causing me to fall and hurt my knee.  This on the other hand is a case because the worker was a traveling employee, not intoxicated and it's reasonably foreseeable that a traveling employee in Vegas would go dancing at a club.  There is now way she should lose this case.

I hurt my back in April of 2008.  I returned to work, but was still seeking treatment for a herniated disc.  On my way to work in October I was in a car accident and ended up with back surgery.  The insurance company says this was an intervening accident and cut off my benefits.  We think the insurance company is wrong and there was a case almost exactly similar to that which supports our belief.  Even though there was an intervening accident, he was still under treatment and his doctor felt that his back was deconditioned.  This problem traces itself back to the original injury.  We think he will be able to secure benefits.  FYI, the fact that he was driving to work means nothing unless he was driving to a work meeting.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that 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.