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Will Workers’ Compensation Cover My Fall at Work?

Russ Haugen

undefinedI recently received a call from a prospective client asking the question, “If I tripped and fell at work and injured myself, do I have a workers’ compensation claim?” Unfortunately, I had to respond with the very generic, lawyerly response… “It depends.”

The fact that you were injured while working isn’t enough to prove that you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In Illinois, you have to prove both that your injuries arose out of and occurred in the course of your employment. In other words, you have to prove that the fall or injury was related to your job.

If you trip and fall while carrying a large piece of heavy equipment at work, it will be very easy to show that the fall is related to your job. But, of course, not every fall at work is that black or blue, I mean “black and white.”

What happens if you trip and fall while walking up stairs? What happens if you slip while hurrying to attend to a customer? What happens if you trip on the curb while walking into work?

You will be required to show that your job put you at an “increase risk of injury.” This can be accomplished by proving that there was something defective about the stairs that caused you to fall. Or, an increase risk of injury can also be shown if the fall was caused because you were in a hurry to attend a meeting or accomplish a work-related task in a timely manner.

For example, we were recently successful at winning a janitor’s entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits for injuries she sustained while walking up stairs after leaving the break room. This was a case that was appealed to the Circuit Court after her employer denied all benefits. We won the case by differentiating the stairs that caused our client to fall when compared to a normal set of stairs any one of us encounter on a day-to-day basis.

It is important to know that the history you provide your doctor is a crucial factor in being able to prove this element of a case. The specifics concerning the fall may not be very important to you or even to the doctor, but that initial history will be scrutinized by the insurance company in deciding whether or not to accept responsibility for the injuries. Therefore, it’s very important to contact a workers’ compensation attorney early on in your case.

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