For airline employees, their jobs come with a substantial degree of risk. Their employment responsibilities place many of them in a position to potentially sustain harm. One United Airlines employee dislocated his patella while doing his job on Christmas Day in 2013. That injury entitled him to workers’ compensation benefits. While his case took place in Virginia, the outcome is instructive regarding how employees can obtain compensation in Illinois.
The injured United employee worked as a ramp agent for the airline. His job consisted of unloading cargo and luggage from the employer’s airplanes. On Dec. 25, 2013, he was going up the jet bridge stairs when, with a 30-pound baby stroller under one arm and a five-pound stroller under the other, he felt his knee “pop.” The pop caused him to fall down the stairs onto his back, at which time his knee popped back into place.
The “pop” he felt was the dislocation of his right kneecap. The ramp agent brought a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Although he suffered an initial defeat, the worker succeeded before the full workers’ compensation commission. That body concluded that the weight and bulk of the two strollers were conditions of the man’s employment that either caused, or at least contributed to, his injuries.
The appeals court upheld the commission’s ruling. The court explained that, given the facts of this case, it was not unreasonable for the commission to decide that the agent’s knee injury could be a reasonable result of carrying bulky and sometimes heavy baby strollers up a set of jet bridge stairs, so the employee was entitled to compensation.
This ramp agent’s case took place in Virginia, where the law follows the “actual risk” test for determining if an injury is compensable. The actual risk test says that an injury is compensable if it “can be seen to have followed as a natural incident of the work and to have been contemplated by a reasonable person familiar with the whole situation as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment.”
For an injured airline employee pursuing a claim for workers’ compensation in Illinois, the pathway to compensation is slightly different. Illinois law recognizes three types of workplace risks in terms of workers’ compensation: employment-related risks, which are generally compensable, neutral risks, which are generally not compensable, and risks that are personal to that employee, which are also generally not compensable.
Doing everyday tasks like walking, climbing stairs and bending over – things that a member of the general public might do – will generally not yield compensation. If, however, an employee were engaged in an activity that differed from that which the general public might do, the worker might have a valid claim. In the past, Illinois courts have denied a claim to a worker injured while bending over to pick up a bolt (because bending over was something anyone might do), but approved benefits for a worker injured while wiping down multiple restaurant tables in a hurried manner (because wiping down lots of tables in an extreme rush isn’t an activity the general public would generally engage in).
Based upon this standard, an employee injured in Illinois in a manner similar to what happened to this United worker in Virginia might be entitled to compensation, given that climbing jet bridge stairs with multiple baby strollers in one’s arms is an activity specific to an airline employee’s job and something that would expose the worker to greater risk than the general public.
If you’ve been injured on the job, you need knowledgeable counsel who understands the processes involved in obtaining recovery, whether through workers’ compensation or a tort claim. The skilled Chicago workplace injury attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca have many years of helping injured workers. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Internationally Domiciled United Airline Flight Attendants Should Not Fear Filing Illinois Occupational Injury Claims, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Jan. 23, 2017
Back Injuries An Increasing Concern For Airlines, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Aug. 11, 2016