An employee at a retail store recently injured herself while opening the front door of the store. She was holding the door open for a customer when the wind caught it, wrenching her shoulder. The question is whether it’s a work injury that is covered by her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. We believe that it is.

Not only was the employee at work when she injured herself, but she was performing her job. Even if her job duties didn’t include holding the door for customers, she was arguably acting within the scope of her job and doing it for her employer’s benefit. All of these things support the fact that the injury occurred in the course of her employment.

An argument against benefits would be that anyone can hurt themselves when the wind catches a door and that this employee was at no greater risk for this injury than members of the general public. This is a common (and valid) argument that is used to take an injury out of the realm of workers’ compensation. Examples include a trip and fall down the stairs for no reason, a heart attack, and other things that can happen anywhere to anyone..

However, in the specific case we’re talking about, the employee was working on the floor of a retail store. The argument that the injury could happen to anyone in the general public won’t work because pretty much anything that happens to an employee on the floor of the store could just as easily happen to someone in the general public. So, it’s sort of an exception to the exception.

Also, this particular employee perhaps was at greater risk than the general public. Maybe she was required to open the door much more often than someone in the general public, or maybe that she was required to do it in a certain way or do so quickly, as part of the customer service requirements of her job. Either way, if we had this case, we feel that we could make a strong argument for benefits for this injured employee.

If your benefits are initially denied, whether you hear that from your employer or the insurance company, you don’t have to take their word for it. There are often two ways to look at an injury like this, and it’s up to the arbitrator (judge) to make the final call.

It’s really important to give your lawyer a detailed description of your job duties in cases like these.  Not just what you do, but how often you do it and what unusual happened on the day you got hurt.


By Michael Helfand