Although the weather the last few days has been mostly great, especially Wednesday and Thursday, we surely are going to have more snowy, slushy days before summer actually gets here. On the worst of days, if you park outside and your car is covered with snow, it’s of course common for people to turn their car on to warm up a bit.
This of course is not a part of someone’s job duties. But under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, you can get injured while doing something that is not part of your job and get compensated for the injury as long as your behavior was reasonable.
In a recent case decided at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, a worker at a plant walked to her car on a cold February day, about 15 minutes before she was set to leave for the day. While heading to her car, someone called out her name and she stopped quickly. This caused her to trip and fall over a raised bolt in the floor and badly injure her elbow.
The insurance company for her employer denied her case because they felt she wasn’t doing her job when she got hurt. At trial her supervisor was called to testify and agreed that the company gave employees permission to start up their vehicles. This led the Arbitrator to find that this accident fell under something called the personal comfort doctrine. In plain English it means that you aren’t “not working” every time you take a little break to do something for your personal comfort like eat, use the bathroom or in this case, go to warm up your car.
It was also important that she tripped over a bolt and not her own two feet. It was a hazard that created a defect in the floor and increased her risk of injury. It was reasonable to expect that employees would have to walk in this area. The reason they were walking there was irrelevant.
This case very easily could have resulted in no compensation for the worker. When they got the denial notice from the insurance company, they could have taken their word for it that this injury didn’t have to be covered under the IL Work Comp Act. The lesson to take from this is that you never trust the word of the insurance company or take legal advice from them. They aren’t looking out for you or your best interests and beyond that, many of them just simply don’t know the law or what they are talking about.
And while every case is different, in most cases where you aren’t breaking rules or acting recklessly, your injuries will be covered if you get hurt at work. If you’d like a free consultation with an attorney to see if you have a case, please contact us at any time.