The general rule, when it comes to workers’ compensation, is that your injury has to occur in the course of your employment. If it doesn’t, then it’s not considered a work injury for legal purposes and you aren’t eligible for benefits. This is a big deal because the benefits you can get under workers’ compensation law include payment of 100% of your medical treatment (no out-of-pocket expenses) plus checks to cover 2/3 of your lost wages while you are off work recovering.
The definition of a work injury has some wiggle room. You don’t necessarily have to be at work in order for an injury to count as a work injury. For example, employees who are injured in the parking lot on their way into work are sometimes approved for benefits, depending on the specific facts of the situation. On the other hand, commute injuries usually are not covered.
When it comes to traveling employees, there is a larger category of situations in which an injury counts as a work injury. The rule for employees who travel is that if they are doing something “reasonable and foreseeable” while traveling for work, then an injury in the course of that activity is considered a work injury, even if the employee was not actually working at the time.
The idea is that you wouldn’t be where you are (hotel, restaurant, airport, beach) if you weren’t traveling for your job. So, during pretty much your entire business trip you are considered to be working. In one famous case, a guy was on a work trip in Hawaii and got hurt while riding a bike. His claim for workers’ compensation was approved. Other examples are injuries in hotel showers and tripping on a curb going to or from a restaurant for dinner. Even recreational activities are thought to be work-related in these cases.
Just remember, that the activity has to be reasonable and foreseeable. Going out to eat, going sightseeing, and exercising – all of these activities are arguably reasonable and foreseeable while on a work trip. It doesn’t matter if what you were doing was solely for your own personal enjoyment. The limit would be if you were doing something reckless, such as drinking and driving, getting extremely intoxicated, doing drugs, etc. These aren’t reasonable and foreseeable.
If you get hurt hiking outside of Denver while visiting the area for business, you might assume that it’s a personal injury case or a regular health insurance claim, but it could very well be a workers’ compensation claim. If you are unsure, there’s no harm in finding out for sure. You can get a free and confidential consultation with an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney very easily. Just don’t wait too long. There are time limits for notifying your employer and for filing a claim.