Question: When leaving work, I slipped and fell in my employer’s car park, is it covered by worker’s compensation law?
Answer: Well… it depends…
Not the answer you hoped for right? It is however not a question that can be easily answered in the workers compensation context. A thorough examination of the actual facts surrounding the fall, what condition caused you to fall and what you were actually doing at the time of the fall, needs to be carried out by an experienced workers compensation attorney, in order to fully be able to answer this question.
In Illinois in order to have a compensable work injury case, you need to be able to show that when you got hurt you not only were working but that your injury also arose out of your employment. This is a very detailed and complex area of the law, which I recently presented on at a seminar for The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. The area is complex and filed with a lot of nuances and should not be navigated without the benefit of an attorney who is familiar with all areas of workers compensation law.
“Parking lot” cases, pose a very difficult challenge in answering the question as to whether or not an accident is a work injury or not. The answer will largely depend on how involved your employer is in the parking lot, and how involved they are in for example, dictating where you actually are parking your car every day.
To give an example, a delivery driver who is loading his truck in the parking lot of his employer’s premises, slips on ice while loading his truck. He is in an area where his boss told him to be and the lot is owned and maintained by his employer. He is also working when he actually encounters the ice. This certainly will be a compensable work injury.
It is those times at the beginning and end of your work day, including going to and from work or during a lunch or coffee break, which are the trickier situations to assess if the accident will be covered by workers compensation or not.
At one end of the spectrum, employers may own, maintain and take care of their own parking lots. They may further designate a specific part of that lot for “employee only” parking. If you fall on this part of a lot, even on your way to or from work or at lunch, on some hazardous condition, then generally these types of accidents will almost certainly be considered to be a work accident that would be covered by workers compensation.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you fall on a parking lot that is at your place of work but the lot is not owned by your employer and not controlled or maintained by your employer, then generally, such an accident would not be a compensable work accident.
For such an accident to be considered to be a valid work accident, you would have to be able to prove that, despite the accident happening in an area to which all members of the general public have access, you were at an increased risk of an accident because of the specific job you had or were doing at the time.
The best example of this goes back to the delivery driver who having loaded his truck at his employer’s yard, now goes to deliver his load to the local food store. That food store parking lot is certainly not owned or maintained by his employer. As he is wheeling his dolly loaded with boxes into the store, he slips on an area of black ice. Is this a workers compensation case even if it happened away from his employer’s lot?
The answer is generally yes it will be, because this worker, unlike other users of the parking lot who are just going there to do their shopping, is at an increased risk of having an accident because, as part of his job, he has to wheel a dolly filled with boxes into the store.
The type of hazard that causes you to fall is important to assess. Simply put, there must be some type of hazardous condition which caused you to fall and simply walking and stumbling on an unknown condition will not be sufficient to prove you have a compensable work injury case. Snow and ice are considered hazardous conditions for a workers compensation case. Defects such as potholes or uneven walking surfaces are also considered hazardous conditions in the workers compensation scenario. Wet walking surfaces or pavements in and of themselves are not currently considered by Illinois courts to be a sufficient hazard to satisfy the tests laid out by the courts.
If a fall in a parking lot, is deemed not to be a compensable workers compensation accident, then you may have other avenues of relief to compensate you for any injury. However, whether that that avenue is open to you or not, will require a very thorough look into the circumstances of the fall and most importantly the conditions which caused you to fall. The scope of that discussion is beyond the time I have here.
Whether your accident is compensable or not under the workers compensation umbrella, or under another area, requires the assistance of an experienced workers compensation and personal injury attorney who is familiar with all the nuances associated with parking lot cases.
As the Chicago Winter sets in and our climate changes, be careful out there and If you or your loved ones are involved in a fall in a parking lot either during, before or after work, or on any other occasion, please give us a call so we can go through all the aspects of the case and determine what avenue is the best one for you to proceed and to ensure your rights are protected.
*Caroleann Gallagher is an Irish born Attorney now licensed in Illinois and practicing all types of personal injury law – including nursing home litigation, medical malpractice law, wrongful death claims, transportation injuries, premises liability claims, defective product claims, construction site injuries and Workers Compensation. She can be contacted at Coogan Gallagher Personal Injury Lawyers or at 312-782-7482.