A car or truck accident can count as a work accident, and make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, in certain situations. Here’s what Illinois law says on the issue…

Regular commutes to and from work don’t usually count. If you get into an accident on your way in on a regular workday, it’s probably not considered a work injury for the purposes of workers’ compensation. That’s not to say you’re not completely out of luck. You can still file a lawsuit against the other driver. In order for an injury to be a work injury, there has to be more of a connection to your job than your commute to and from home.

Where you were going, and why, are important considerations. If you drive around as part of your job, an injury on the road is likely a work injury. An employee who installs cable at private residences during the day would be covered for injuries that happen driving to appointments or back to the office or warehouse afterwards.

If you don’t typically drive around for work but are required to drive to a specific location on a particular day, maybe for a meeting, an injury along the way would probably be considered a work injury. Similarly, an errand during the day – if done for the benefit of your employer – would be a work injury in many cases.

If you are out of town for work, pretty much any driving would count as work related. For traveling employees, any accidents or injuries that happen on a work trip, even while not technically working, can be considered a work injury. The reason is because you wouldn’t be in that town/hotel/restaurant in the first place, had you not been on a work trip.

Why does all this matter? You have either a workers’ compensation claim or a potential injury lawsuit, but not both. In fact, if you have a work injury the law does not allow you to sue your employer. You have to file for benefits if you want compensation. Disputes in work injury cases often center on whether the injury is work related and whether it was ultimately caused by a person’s job. Fault is not a factor.

Workers’ compensation includes benefits such as payment of medical bills and checks for a portion of your wages if you can’t work. You have to be an employee to get workers’ compensation benefits. If your employer says that you are an independent contractor, verify that fact with an attorney to make sure you haven’t been mislabeled.

By Michael Helfand