Another snowy and wet winter in Chicago.  That means a lot of slip and falls.  In general the law in Illinois has been that if you are working and on your employer’s premises when you fall, you have a case.  On the other hand, if you are in a place where you work, but it’s where the general public is, you wouldn’t have a case.

The Illinois Appellate Court, in an unpublished opinion, has clarified things.  A secretary for the City of Springfield fell on snow and ice while walking in to her building.  It was an entrance accessed by her employee badge, but the general public was allowed to enter there as well.  There was one other entrance to the building.

She fell almost five years ago on a snow covered walk way that connects one of the entrances with the main sidewalk.  Her case went to Arbitration and the Arbitrator ruled that the case wasn’t compensable because she fell in an area accessed by the general public and since she wasn’t at work, doing her job, she had no increased risk of injury

Bravo to the lawyer who stuck with this case (it wasn’t our office, I just read about this case) because it got appealed twice and denied twice before reaching the Appellate Court.  They made a common sense ruling that because the employer’s premises were unsafe and hazardous.  There were only two entrances and one main one for workers.  To get there put her through a huge risk of injury.  That per the Court was enough to win the case.

It’s important to know that in general under Illinois law you don’t have an obligation to remove snow and ice.  But Illinois work comp law is different in that you aren’t trying to prove negligence, but rather that your job put you at risk somehow.

So the law has essentially changed as falls outside an office building in areas where the general public can be used to not be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  Bottom line is you should always talk to an attorney to see if you have a case and getting one who is a fighter can clearly be the difference between winning and losing your case.

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