With another wet winter, we are of course seeing a lot of slip-and-fall cases. You’d think that if you fall at work, then any injury from that fall would be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. While most work-related falls are in fact covered, not all are. And it’s important to know why.
The first thing needed to win a slip-and-fall workers’ compensation case, is you have to either be on company property or in a place that your job requires you to be. Think of a Target employee who works in a big strip mall and falls on ice while exiting their car. The mall isn’t owned by their employer and the lot isn’t public. Unless they were coming back from running a work errand, they wouldn’t win work comp benefits. On the other hand, if the employer owned the lot or the worker had to park there – doesn’t typically happen in strip malls, but does for many other jobs – they would likely have a case.
The second thing we look for is did your job increase your risk of injury? In plain English, you have to be able to explain why you fell. If you just fell for no reason, you likely don’t have a case. But if you work at that same Target store and slipped inside the building on a floor that was wet because customers brought in snow and ice from their shoes, then you would likely have a case.
Not all increased risk situations are obvious. You could fall because you were carrying a bunch of work items or because you were running to a meeting. Another one that was subject to a recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission case is when you are walking on uneven ground onan incline. In that case, a horticulturist had pulled some weeds and was walking from an area with plants to an asphalt area. As she exited the grassy part, she fell on uneven asphalt. Because the ground was uneven, it was reasonable to infer that is why she fell and that her job put her at an increased risk of injury.
When you are in terrible pain after a fall, the first thing on your mind probably isn’t wondering why you fell. But we highly recommend that as soon as you are able to, try and figure it out if you don’t know already. The answer could be as simple as “I don’t know what I slipped on, but the floor was slippery” or as specific as “I discovered that a refrigerator was leaking water,” or something like that.
And most of all, don’t give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster or anyone else. They will try to get you to agree that you don’t know why you fell and if you say that, it could be the end of your case before it even starts.