Illinois courts expect to make many important rulings about worker’s compensation in early 2016. The decisions put out by the courts come just a year after a long, highly political debate about workers compensation laws.
The cases before the courts address two major issues for workers: injuries indirectly related to employment (categorized by the courts as injuries “arising out of employment”) and accidents outside of work. The two guidelines examined by the courts improved compensation claims in a number of ways.
“Arising Out Of Employment”
Since 2004, the courts established a set of conditions to qualify for a claim under the “arising out of employment” umbrella.
- Site Conditions: The Illinois appellate courts determined that workers can claim compensation when an employer fails to make the site safe. An example is an employer who knows a stairwell has a loose handrail. If an employee walked up the stairs, holding the handrail, and fell, the employer may have to pay workers compensation for the injuries.
- Sole or Usual Route: In another recent decision, the courts ruled that employers are liable for workers compensation claims if an employee gets injured on a sole or usual route into the facility. The case stems from a claim made by an employee who fell on a crack in the sidewalk along the only entrance into a locked building. She received compensation when the courts decided employers must address safety concerns along well established employee pathways, even if those paths are not in the building.
- Risk Exposure: One of the core decisions made by the courts was the creation of the risk exposure test. If a workers compensation attorney in Chicago can prove that an injury suffered during the course of the workday was the result of an employer exposing employees to risks “greater than that of the general public”, employees may qualify for compensation. The test case for this decision arose when a woman injured herself on a sidewalk on the way to the bank to make a deposit for her employer. She traveled the same sidewalk at least three times a week, and the court decided that increased her risk, leading to her injury.
- Related Work Activities: In this case, a police officer injured his back while taking equipment from his personal vehicle into his home. He hurt his back in the process and sought the assistance of a workers compensation attorney in Chicago for his injury. The police department argued they provided lockers for officers, and by choosing to carry his bag to his home, the officer did not qualify for compensation. The officer responded by showing the department did not require the use of lockers, and securing the equipment was a necessary part of the job. The courts ruled in favor of the officer. They said injuries sustained while performing tasks reasonably expected as part of a job’s requirements, even if the injury occurred off-site and off-duty, are an employer’s responsibility.
To qualify for coverage under these guidelines, the injury must meet at least one of the criteria. A workers compensation attorney in Chicago may be necessary to word the claim in a way that satisfies the court’s requirements.
Accidents Outside Of Work
All over the United States, employers and insurers are looking to deny or suspend benefits by claiming intervening acts at home or away from work. They can hire surveillance and monitor an injured employee’s daily activities or try to scrutinize medical records to find any possible allegation of an accident/injury away from work to end benefits.
A freight employee suffered an accident at work that caused pain in his lower back and leg. The employer did not deny the claim, and the worker received compensation. Later, he injured his leg at home. When he returned to his doctor he complained of additional pain. The doctor found evidence of much more serious injuries than originally diagnosed. The employer used the second accident as justification for refusing to cover the conditions.
The courts expanded protection for workers in the decision. In the ruling, the courts stated that new injuries that cannot be directly proven to hinder recovery from an initial injury are not justification for denying coverage. Furthermore, the judges ruled pre-existing conditions and medical histories cannot be considered when accounting for an increase in severity of the injury. These decisions prevent employers from exploiting loopholes to withhold compensation.
The volume of changes coming in 2016 will require every workers compensation attorney in Chicago to track the courts and the legislature carefully. In doing so, they will be better equipped to secure compensation for employee injuries.