An Illinois court of appeals awarded workers’ compensation to a woman who tripped on a cracked sidewalk on her way into work. She was a county employee, entering the county courthouse after a work meeting elsewhere. The door she normally entered through was locked, and she was on her way to the front steps of the building when she tripped and fell on a cracked sidewalk. She was wearing heels, and one of them caught in the broken and cracked sidewalk. The employee fractured her wrist and developed a condition that later required a fusion of the wrist.

The arbitrator in the case, as well as the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and the circuit court, ruled that the wrist injury was not related to her employment for purposes of workers’ compensation and benefits were denied. The appellate court disagreed, and she ultimately received workers’ compensation benefits for her injury.

In order to fall under workers’ compensation, an injury must arise out of and in the course of one’s employment. For an injury like this one, the question becomes whether her employment put her at a greater risk than the general public. If your risk as an employee is no greater than the risk faced by the general population, it’s not going to be considered a work injury.

The arbitrator and lower court said she was at no greater risk for tripping and falling than the general public, and therefore it was not a work injury. The appeals court, however, said she was at a greater risk and labeled the sidewalk condition a “special hazard.” The court said the employee was entering the building because of her work, and using that entrance because the usual employee entrance was locked. Her risk was greater than the general public because she had to attend meetings at another location and she was therefore exposed to this special hazard because of her job.

Had this employee tripped over her own feet, the case likely would have been different. However, it’s difficult to know what other circumstances might have arisen under another set of facts. The point is that each case is different. You have the general rule, which is usually fairly set and certain. However, when you apply that rule to a specific instance or injury, it becomes much more complex.

Don’t assume your injury isn’t a work injury because you weren’t doing your specific job duties when you were hurt, or because you weren’t at your place of employment when you were hurt, or because of any other reason. Many times, the outcome is not what you might think. Talk to an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney.  We are always happy to speak with you for free and in confidence.