Our office is frequently contacted by people who have been hurt at their place of employment, only to be told that since they were “off the clock” when the injury happened, their injury is not covered by worker’s compensation. That may be true in some cases, but frequently is not, as many “off the clock” injuries are actually covered by the Worker’s Compensation Act. The issue is an important one, and it is certainly worth obtaining a consultation before accepting the denial of your worker’s compensation case at face value.
Here are some common examples of “off the clock” injuries for which Illinois worker’s compensation claims are routinely denied, but which may actually be valid claims:
- At lunch or on break Workers who take their breaks or lunches on company premises may still be covered by worker’s compensation if they are injured due to something about their workplace which exposed them to a particular risk of injury, for example, a leaky dishwasher in the break room.
- Coming and going to work – on the premises Workers who are injured while on company property while arriving to start their work day or while leaving after they are done for the day are almost always covered by worker’s compensation even though they are technically not on the clock, provided that there was something about their presence in the workplace which exposed them to the injury-causing situation.
- Parking lots Parking lots present a difficult challenge, but if the parking lot is the employer’s property, is provided to the employees for parking, or is a designated employee parking lot, falls and other injuries in the parking lot will often be covered by worker’s compensation. However, when the parking lot does not have any connection to your workplace, it probably will not be covered.
- Business Travel When you are sent out of town on business, a wide array of activities which would not be covered if you were at home would likely be covered, including injuries in your hotel room or while driving to a restaurant.
The lines between compensable and non-compensable is sometimes not clear with off-the-clock injuries. However, many of them are in fact covered by the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act, even though the claim may be denied by your employer’s worker’s compensation carrier. It is certainly worth getting a consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer to determine what your rights are.
One important thing to consider is this: the trade-off for receiving worker’s compensation benefits is that you cannot sue your employer for negligence in causing your injuries. If your employer is taking the position that your injuries are not covered by the Worker’s Compensation Act, then it cannot claim immunity against a civil suit from you either. Forcing the employer to make a choice between paying worker’s compensation benefits and paying a settlement in a civil suit often leads to the employer accepting the compensibility of the accident.