We talk to a lot of people about parking lot injuries at work and whether they’re covered under Illinois workers’ compensation law. It tends to be a grey area. The law says that injuries that arise out of and in the course of employment are covered. When an employee is hurt in the parking lot, it raises the issue of whether it falls into those categories. The basic question is whether the injury is related – or related enough – to the individual’s employment. Injuries that are completely unrelated are not covered under Illinois law.
We recently heard of a case where an employee was given permission to run out to her car and grab her sweater. It was raining and the lot was wet. She slipped and fell on her way back in. Does it count as a work injury?
We believe that it does. In parking lot cases, one consideration is whether the lot is owned and operated or maintained by the employer. Also, it matters whether the employees are told where to park. The gist is that the more involved the employer is in the parking situation, the more likely it is that an injury is going to be considered work related. In this case, the employer did own and maintain the lot and told employees to park there.
Another important aspect is something called the personal comfort rule. When you do something at work for your own comfort – a trip to the bathroom, a walk to the vending machine – it doesn’t mean you completely step outside of your employment. This might apply to the employee who went out to her car to get her sweater. Just because she wasn’t performing an official job duty doesn’t mean her injury didn’t relate to her employment.
When an injury is in a grey area like this, the employer and their insurance company see an opportunity to save money and deny the claim for benefits. It’s your lawyer’s job to argue otherwise. If your claim is denied, you can bring your case before an arbitrator and ask them to make a final decision on the matter.