According to the National Safety Council, slip-and-fall accidents are the most common injury on the job, making up 1/5 of all workplace injuries each year. If you live in Illinois, and you've fallen at work, it's important to be aware that the laws are slightly different in this state when it comes to filing a claim. In order to have the best chance at winning your case, here are three things to do if you slip and fall on the job.
1. Make note of ALL details and surrounding facts of the fall. In most states, simply falling at work or while on-the-clock is enough to make you eligible to receive benefits. You typically don't even have to prove negligence on the part of the employer. But in Illinois, that law becomes a little muddled.
You don't necessarily have to prove that your employer was negligent, but if your fall is ultimately determined to have happened because of unexplained causes—otherwise known as an "idiopathic" fall—then you may not be eligible to receive benefits. Specifically, you have to prove that the fall happened while you were doing something required of your job and that you were at a greater risk of being injured than someone in the general public.
For instance, suppose you work as a home caregiver, and your patient asks you to retrieve their dentures. While turning the corner to head to the bathroom, you walk into a box sitting on the floor and fall, injuring your ankle. This was actually a real case, and when the injury was initially reported, the caregiver neglected to mention the box or whether she had already gotten the dentures. Initially, the arbitrator ruled in the plaintiff caregiver's favor, but when the case was appealed, the defendant won based on the fact that the plaintiff failed to prove that the box or the dentures were responsible for the fall.
Noting details, even those that you don't think are significant, is critical when reporting your injury.
2. Don't speak to insurance adjusters without talking with an attorney first. There's a good chance you'll be contacted by an insurance adjuster, either while hospitalized or recovering at home. And insurance adjusters are trained to ask very specific questions that can hurt your case if they're not answered correctly. That's why it's important to speak with an attorney first so you can be guided on what to say. Better yet, you can tell the adjuster to contact your attorney.
In another slip-and-fall case, a woman was carrying a stack of documents to her car in the rain when she fell and injured her knee. When contacted by the adjuster, she was in the hospital and in pain, and she made recorded statements that alluded to her not knowing what caused the fall. In this situation, she gave a lot of details (it was raining, she was wearing high heels, and she was carrying work documents), but she ultimately said that the fall was probably a combination of all three conditions.
In this case, her attorney likely would have advised that she not say anything to the adjuster so they could work on proving the fall was due to a combination of her balancing the work documents and the weather. Legally, you are not required to give a recorded statement in Illinois.
3. Report the injury to your employer. In Illinois, you have 45 days to report the injury to your employer. Your company might have a policy requiring employees to report it sooner, but from a legal standpoint, waiting the 45 days cannot be held against you. Obviously, the sooner you report the injury, the sooner you can work on getting compensation. But again, it's important to handle the situation based on the advice of an attorney, if necessary.
And remember all those details and facts you made note of earlier? They will be critical when reporting your injuries in writing. Most people that are denied compensation are turned down because they didn't include enough detail in their report.
For more information about slip-and-fall cases and how you should proceed, contact a workers comp attorney in your area.