These cases aren’t related, but they’re interesting to look at side by side. When you consider the basic facts of each, the outcomes seem unfair. Why is a nurse who falls in the hallway at the hospital not covered by workers’ compensation, but a police officer who falls at his own home is?
The reason is because an injury has to be related to the individual’s work in order to make them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Specifically, Illinois law says that the injury has to arise out of and in the course of one’s employment. The effect is that not every injury at work is considered a work injury. And on the flip side, you don’t necessarily have to be at your place of work in order for an injury to count.
So, an underlying connection to your work is more important than the location, which is at the core of both of these cases.
The police officer was at home on his lunch break, and when he was walking back out to his squad car, he slipped on snow and ice. What makes his injury a workers’ compensation injury is the fact that he was on duty at the time. He was permitted to have lunch at home. He was wearing his radio, and he would have had to respond to a call for assistance if needed. So, he was still in the course of his employment when he fell, even though he was in front of his own house.
The nurse fell in the hallway at the hospital and injured her knee. She testified that the floor had a defect – that it was not flat and caused her to fall. However, she could not provide evidence of any floor defect, so her benefits were denied. Even though she was in her place of employment, simply tripping and falling is not enough to get compensation under the law. You have to prove that something unique to your employment caused your injury; and she could not do that. In other words, her fall did not specifically arise out of her employment.
These cases illustrate some of the underlying concepts of workers’ compensation law. But more importantly, they go to show that you can’t always predict whether something will be a considered a work injury, making you eligible for payment of medical bills, wage loss checks and other important benefits.