If you get hurt doing activities of every day life that aren’t part of your job duties, you typically don’t have an Illinois work comp case.  For example, if you take a shower before work at your house and fall, that wouldn’t be a case because (presumably) you’d be taking a shower any way and for the most part that’s an activity that everyone does.  The same would hold true if you got injured on the CTA on your way in to the office or while driving your car.
The exception to this rule is if you are a traveling employee.  A Rockford man called us recently.  He was traveling out east for business and was taking a shower at the hotel he was staying at.  The hotel didn’t have a rail or a slip mat and during the shower he lost his balance and landed hard on his back.  When he got back to Illinois, a MRI revealed a herniated disc in his back.  He has a great case.
The reason his claim is legit is because he was injured while on the road for his job.  Generally speaking, Illinois Courts have ruled that being on the road puts you at an increased risk of injury, so any activity that is reasonably foreseeable to your employer that you’d be doing would be a case if an injury occurs.  It’s certainly foreseeable that a worker would take a shower.
So what isn’t foreseeable?  There is no hard and fast rule on that, but for the most part reckless activity will disqualify you.  In other words, if you get really drunk and fall down, blowing out your knee in the process, that likely wouldn’t be covered.  On the flip side, if you go to a work convention in Hawaii for example, it’s foreseeable that you’d go swimming in the ocean during your free time.  If a shark bit you, that injury would likely be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
The theory behind all of this is that your employer is benefitting from you taking the trip.  The actual shower you take may not be in any way different than the one you take in the comfort of your own house, except that you are away from home in what is presumably an unfamiliar environment.
In reality it may not be the fairest law, but our job as attorneys for injured workers is to represent the best interests of our clients.  There are plenty of rules that go against injured workers (e.g. you can’t win a stress case typically) so we aren’t going to complain when something goes in the favor of our clients.
Do remember, the act of getting hurt is just one element of your case.  You still have to prove everything else.  So timely medical treatment is important.  Reporting the accident to your boss is important.  Having a doctor that relates your physical problems to what happened is important.  But at the same time, don’t assume you have no rights because you were simply washing your hair.

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