Generally speaking, if you fall on a public sidewalk while not doing your job duties, it’s not a workers’ compensation case. But it’s also not as simple as that and if you do fall, you have to look at why you fell and why you were walking in the area where the accident took place.
For example, if you are carrying a big box of work supplies and fall in part because of that, your employer is benefiting and that would likely be a case.
Or consider a recent court decision involving a CNA at St. Joseph Hospital.
Her job involved taking care of patients on the overnight shift. She clocked out as usual early in the morning and then grabbed a drink and talked to her co-workers who were getting ready to start their work day. While this talk may have been trivial, it certainly makes sense and benefits the employer that they’d occasionally talk about patients too.
One co-worker warned her that it had been sleeting all night and that it was slick outside. She exited the hospital toward the employee only parking lot and on her way fell on the icy sidewalk.
The insurance company for the hospital tried to argue that she didn’t have a case because the sidewalk was public. That argument didn’t carry weight.
What the Arbitrator found was that she was taking the path to the employee only parking lot and exited a door that the general public is not allowed to enter. Those two factors made this not a risk that the general public had to face but instead one that was unique to the workers.
The test we use as lawyers is, is there some restriction on the general public? In this case the answer was obviously yes. Employers benefit by having their workers park in employee only lots and if a worker gets injured in that lot or going to or from that lot, it’s likely a work related injury.
These cases show the benefit of having an experienced attorney on your claim. Another defense the insurance company tried to use was getting testimony on weather data that stated it wasn’t sleeting. That of course as nothing to do with the truth that the ground was slippery or that she reported right away that she fell on ice. And nobody testified that the sidewalk wasn’t icy. Lesser attorneys though would have told this injured worker to settle for a reduced amount instead of taking the case to trial.