If someone asked you to name the health risks of being a cashier, you’d probably name the physical injuries that can come from standing for long periods of time, or using a cash register all day long, or repeatedly bagging customer purchases.

The fact that a cashier might be at risk for an injury caused by an out-of-control vehicle smashing into the store probably doesn’t come to mind. But that’s what happened in a recent workers’ compensation case. The question was whether the cashier had suffered a work injury under Illinois workers’ compensation law and would be entitled to benefits.

The legal issue is whether the injury was related to her job as cashier. The rule is that injuries that could happen just as easily to any member of the general public at any time don’t count as work injuries (for purposes of getting workers’ compensation). So was the cashier at greater risk for getting hit by a runaway car because of her job?

The cashier won her case and it was determined that she was at a greater risk than members of the general public for that type of injury. The reason was because she was required to stand in the front of the store for most of her time at work and the front wall of the store was a large glass window. 

These cases tend to be very fact specific. While the law is important, it really comes down to the situation of each injury and each employee. Examples where employees were not eligible for benefits include falling on gravel in the parking lot, tripping for no apparent reason, and bending over to pick something up. In these cases, no compensation was awarded because the arbitrator or commission determined that the employee was at no greater risk than the general public when it came to their specific injuries. That said, there are situations in which these cases would be compensable. A single detail can make a big difference.

The bottom line is that you can’t rely on the general rule when determining whether workers’ compensation should be awarded in a particular case. There are so many exceptions and nuances. Honestly, it’s what makes our job interesting. And it’s also one reason why the help of a good Illinois attorney can turn your case around.