If you get hurt at work while on a break, you can still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Illinois has something called the personal comfort doctrine. It’s the idea that even when you’re on break, you can still be within the course of your employment. Breaks are part of the workday, and most employers expect that you will take bathroom breaks, smoke breaks, lunch breaks, etc.

So, if you get hurt while on a bathroom break, in many cases you’ll still be covered. Illinois workers’ compensation pays workers a portion of their lost wages if they are unable to work while they recover. It also covers all reasonable and related medical bills.

However, this rule doesn’t usually apply if you are no longer on your employer’s property. If you leave work and drive to get lunch, an accident on your way is likely not covered. In a recent example, an employee slipped and fell in the bathroom at work. She hit her face and required a lot of stitches. Her claim for workers’ compensation will likely be denied, not because she was taking a break but because the bathroom was outside of her employer’s office suite. The bathroom was shared by several other companies on the same floor of the office building. The key is in this particular situation is that her employer does not own or maintain the bathroom where she was injured.

So even though employees are potentially covered while on breaks, they were not covered in this instance because they left the employer’s office suite and used a bathroom that was not owned or maintained by the employer. A lawsuit against the building owner, manager or landlord is possible. It would be a personal injury lawsuit (called a third-party claim) rather than a workers’ compensation claim.

Hopefully, this wasn’t too confusing. If you’re wondering whether your work injury falls into this exception to the exception, feel free to call. Our goal is to explain things in a way that makes sense to you.

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