Very rarely am I shocked when I see an Illinois work injury claim denied, but a recent one I read about shocked me.
First off a little background. When you have a job, you are given job duties, but in general your job is to do things that benefit your employer. So while my very nice and smart assistant usually helps with the phones, typing, writing and research, if I ask her to get coffee or pick up my dry cleaning (I’ve never done either of those things by the way), then she has to do it. When it comes to work comp, if she does something and gets injured, as long as it’s reasonable and to the benefit of the company. So if she gets hurt doing some crazy, spontaneous dance, it’s not a case. But if she gets hurt cleaning up a spill that someone else left, it’s a case even it’s not her job to do that.
In the case I read about, a patrolman for the Berwyn Park District was injured while trying to apprehend an individual who was being chased by the police department. This job as a park district officer was a second job to his main work as a policeman.
In the Park District job, officers had their own cars with sirens and were often dispatched to do work through the police department. They also had access to the police radio and on the day this guy got hurt, he heard a message that the police were in a pursuit. He saw the alleged criminal crash his car and kind of spin out. The worker exited his own vehicle and told the suspect to put his hands up. At that point the suspect hit the worker with his car.
The Berwyn Park District fought the case because it didn’t occur on Park District property and involved a driver who committed a traffic violation which was not part of his normal patrolling duties.
The Arbitrator in the case fortunately used common sense and correctly noted that there is a clear crossover between the two jobs. The part time job was only staffed by police officers. Quite honestly it sounds like a bit of scam to avoid paying overtime. More so, the claimant was acting in his role as a Park District officer when this happened. He didn’t intentionally leave his post to pursue the chase, but came across it while on patrol. Beyond all that the Arbitrator noted that since the District only hired police officers, it was forseeable that they might have to act in response to a crime that was not on Park District property.
This one is so obvious that I can’t believe the guts it took to deny it. But insurance companies and their lawyers will deny anything if they think they can make an argument. Maybe you’ll go away. Maybe you’ll hire a bad lawyer and lose the case. Maybe they’ll get some leverage to pay you less than the case is worth.
Bottom line is that don’t be surprised or frustrated if your case, that is clearly a work related injury, gets denied. It’s sadly the normal course of business even in obvious situations like this one.