We heard about a case recently that really shows that fine line between a work injury and a non-work injury. The employee slipped and fell in the parking lot on their way into work. These cases can go either way. They largely depend on how involved their employer is in where their employees park. The circumstances vary from case to case and often determine the outcome.

At one end of the spectrum is a lot that is owned and operated by the employer, with a portion designated for employees only, and the employer tells employees to park in that portion. If an employee slips and falls in this type of parking area, it’s almost certain to be a work injury, qualifying the worker for benefits under Illinois workers’ compensation law.

At the other end of the spectrum, is an employer who doesn’t own or manage the parking lot, doesn’t tell employees where to park, and the lot where the worker fell is a public lot where anyone can park. There’s really no significant connection to the employer, and a slip and fall in this situation would probably not be a workers’ compensation injury.

The case we heard about recently was somewhere in the middle, as most cases tend to be. In this case, the employer was in an industrial park. There were office suites throughout the building, with continuous parking along all of the various entrances. The lot was open to the public – any workers or visitors could park anywhere. And the employer did not own or operate the lot. However, the employer had directed employees to park nearest to their office suite. This action by the employer – telling employees to park in front of the office suite – is probably enough to put this worker’s slip and fall into the work-injury category.

In order to have a work injury and be eligible for benefits in Illinois, the injury must arise out of and in the course of one’s employment. In parking lot cases, it comes down to the individual facts of the case. Those who don’t have a valid workers’ compensation claim may have a third-party claim against the owner/operator of the parking lot. This would be a typical personal injury case, litigated in court.

Because these cases are disputable, the insurance company might try to deny benefits by claiming that you don’t have a work injury. This tactic is fairly routine, because the insurer doesn’t want to pay out more than it has to. Be sure to check with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to learn whether you have a case worth pursuing.