A reader called me with an interesting question.


He wanted to know if the insurance company for his employer could deny him work comp benefits because he was not performing his normal duties at the time of the accident.  The answer is, it depends.


He normally did a desk job, but on the day he got hurt he was helping some machinists move equipment.  While they were wearing work boots, he was in a button downed shirt and dress shoes.  He slipped and his back went out on him.  He ended up at the doctor and had a MRI which showed a herniated disc.  The insurance adjuster indicated that the case is under investigation because he was not performing his normal work tasks which involves invoicing and processing payments to the company.


The statement by the insurance company is a joke.  You don’t have to be doing your normal job tasks to be covered under Illinois work comp laws.  You just have to be doing something that is to the benefit of your employer.  Clearly in this case he was doing that and there’s no way he should have his case denied or even his benefits delayed a little bit.


It would be a different story if his accident happened while he was goofing off.  For example, his employer has a golf cart that they can use to drive around their plant.  Had he been driving, but doing so in a reckless manner, his injuries from that accident would likely not be covered.


In general though, as an employee, your job is do whatever the employer needs.  Some union members have protections that allow them to refuse certain work assignments, but everyone else for the most part has to go along with what is requested of them.  The trade off is that if you get injured while doing this work that you aren’t used to, you don’t have to worry about medical bills or who will pay for your lost time. 


The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act was created to protect employers from being sued by employees for negligence.  The benefit for an employee is that if they get hurt while working, it’s a no-fault law.  My caller had no idea how to properly lift.  He might have been partially at fault, but that doesn’t matter because that’s how the system works.  You as an employee are giving your company benefits and in return you get rights back.


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.

By Michael Helfand