Recently we were called by an office worker in Downers Grove.  She hurt her knee when she tripped while working and assumed that because it happened at work, she should get Illinois workers’ compensation benefits.  Unfortunately for her, she fell because her shoes were untied and she tripped on the laces.  She wasn’t carrying anything, wasn’t rushing and wouldn’t have fallen if it weren’t for the laces.
I don’t think she has a case because nothing about her job contributed to the accident other than that she was there.  It would have been different if she fell in to a machine that cut her arm or if she had to wear special shoes for her job that constantly became untied.  But in this case, she wasn’t at an increased risk for an accident so I don’t think we can help.
Compare that with a nurse in Carol Stream that called me who also fell at work and also hurt her knee.  She too tripped on her untied shoelaces.  But I think that nurse has a case because she was carrying multiple patient charts and was running to a call from another hospital worker for help.  The charts and the fact that she had to rush contributed to her accident.  Because that was part of her job duties, I think she would win the case if it was disputed.
We actually did a lot of research on this issue.  There haven’t been any major appellate court decisions on tripping from shoe laces, but the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has made many rulings.  They essentially state that when you are carrying something, it prevents you from being able to put your hands down and catch yourself.  Because of that, you should win if that happens to you.  Something about the fall has to be related to your job, it can’t just be a personal risk such as you weren’t paying attention or you just fell.
So in any fall at work, especially if you trip over shoelaces that weren’t tied, think about what part of the job contributed to the accident.  If it’s anything other than simply it happened at work, you should get benefits.

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By Michael Helfand