If I told you that I was at work and put a cooler in the trunk of my vehicle and while doing so I injured my ankle, would you think I have an Illinois workers’ compensation case?  Most people would assume that putting a cooler in a trunk of a personal car is not part of the job duties of an attorney or most workers.

This actually happened in a real case involving a lab assistant.  At her job, lab samples come in a Styrofoam cooler and workers are allowed to take them home.  She decided to put a cooler in her trunk while she was on a break so that it would be out of the way in the crowded lab.  While doing so she stepped in to a hole and twisted her ankle.

Even though the worker was on a break when she got hurt and even though you don’t think of putting a cooler in your trunk as part of a lab assistant’s normal job duties, this activity was done for the benefit of the employer.  In other words, she wasn’t moving the cooler for her benefit.  It wasn’t a cooler filled with beer for a party she was going to later on. This was her helping her employer.

Beyond all of this, the injury happened due to a defect in the parking lot in that there was a hole in the ground.  Nothing she did was unreasonable or inherently dangerous even if it wasn’t something she wasn’t doing on a day in and day out basis.

The bottom line for you as an injured worker is that you are not a robot and can’t be expected to only do the same motion and activity while at work. You don’t get punished for looking out for your employer or showing some initiative or doing something that isn’t part of your normal job. This would be no different if you were a doctor who decided to help out and take out the trash and you threw out your back while doing so.  Illinois injury laws don’t punish workers who aren’t acting recklessly but are doing things that good workers do.

Bonus tip.  It’s important to remember that the worker in this case wasn’t ordered to do this activity.  While we can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do without permission on the job, labor laws are different than work comp laws. When it comes to job injuries what matters is was your injury the result of something reasonable, foreseeable and for the benefit of the company?  If the answer is yes then you should win.