A common myth about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that you have to be “on the clock” or otherwise punched in to bring a case for an injury. That’s simply not true. If you are doing a reasonable activity that you’d be expected to do and have an accident, that can be a compensable workers’ compensation case. This reality is shown when workers have falls entering a building either before a shift or after a break. Two recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decisions show what I’m talking about.
In the first case, a nurse at a state mental health facility worked an overnight shift. She was told to start at 9:00 p.m. The main door locked at 8:00 p.m. so she had to use a side entrance. It had snowed that evening. While walking in, she slipped on a tile floor because her shoes were wet from the snow. This caused injuries to her wrist, ankle and knee. Of note was the fact that the parking lot had not been plowed. All of these factors increased her risk of having an injury. She entered through a door not accessible to the general public. She wasn’t on the clock, but once she got to their building she was doing things to benefit the employer. That’s what you need to win a case.
In the second case, a Joliet custodian was taking one of his two allotted 15 minute breaks when he fell on ice while walking on a ramp back in to the building. He injured his hip, back and had some teeth knocked out. The insurance company fought the case saying that the custodian shouldn’t have taken the ramp back in to the building. That sounds ridiculous and it is, but they did force the case to arbitration. Fortunately common sense prevailed and the Arbitrator awarded benefits. That was because it was common for employees to use the ramp and it wasn’t dangerous or reckless to use it. And because it was common for workers to access the ramp, it was found that the employer was ok with it. In other words, if this was a rule violation he might have been in trouble. The fact that he was coming off a break was a non factor because he was still on their property.
The bottom line is that while we see fights on cases for falls while entering a work building, more often than not the defenses to these cases are bogus and fail at trial. Don’t be discouraged or bothered if an insurance company is making your case more difficult than it should be. These are solvable problems and we are happy to help you solve them. Contact us any time to speak with a lawyer for free.