I love reading Illinois work comp case law updates. Sometimes the law changes. Sometimes a new case clarifies how existing law should be applied. The other day I read two cases back to back that were similar, but slightly different because one of them involved a teacher.
In the first case, a General Mills worker was walking down the hall when she felt a pop in her calf. Her eventual diagnosis was a ruptured calf tendon. She ended up losing her case because even though she alleged she was walking faster than normal, other evidence seemed to indicate that she was simply walking. That by itself is not enough to win an Illinois work comp case because it doesn’t prove the job increased your risk of an injury.
In the other case, a special education teacher in Evanston was walking between classrooms to deliver a schedule to a teacher in another classroom. As she walked past two water fountains, she slipped and injured her knee. Because of her pain she was unable to check to see if her clothes were wet or if there was water on the floor. That is a common thing to happen in my experience. When you are in terrible pain, you aren’t likely to look around and thing, “What do I need to show happened if I bring a legal case?” You are thinking “OW!!!” and wanting to get help.
In her case, like the first one, she wasn’t rushing. She didn’t see water, but did testify that she felt like she had slipped on water. Evidence was presented that there is frequently water on the floor by the fountains. And common sense and experience tells you that kids spill water from the fountain all of the time. So she lost at trial, but won on appeal at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. They found that her testimony that she felt like she slipped on water along with the likelihood that there was water on the floor was enough to win the case.
The importance of this case is that you have to look at the type of job someone works and understand the unique risks their job brings. We’ve all been in schools so we can picture the hazards that can be around from little kids who might be careless when drinking or otherwise. So while you might not expect water to commonly be spilled near the cooler in an office building, it’s not hard to imagine it happening at a school.
The bottom line is that in IL work comp law, two cases can have similar, but not exact fact patterns with completely different results. Having an attorney who will do a thoughtful analysis of your case and present your claim in a favorable way can be the difference between winning and losing.