For an injury to qualify for workers’ compensation, it must be sustained in the midst of your work duties. Does that mean that anything you do at work that injures you can lead to workers’ comp benefits?
According to a recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court, any physical task required by your job can lead to a successful claim, including “everyday” efforts like standing for a certain period or bending over to pick up something off the floor.
Needed knee surgery after kneeling in a cooler
The court’s decision was based on the case of a cook at a Chicago restaurant who hurt his knee in 2014. The man, who worked as a sous-chef, was searching for a pan of carrots in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler. He knelt, and when he stood back up, his knee popped and locked up. The man missed five weeks of work due to surgery on the knee and recovery time, though he continued to need pain medication and physical therapy for some time afterward.
He applied for workers’ compensation but the restaurant denied his application. The case went before an arbitrator, who ruled that the cook’s injury was the result of a work-related task. He awarded benefits to the chef and ordered penalties to the restaurant for its “dilatory, retaliatory and objectively unreasonable” denial. But the restaurant appealed and the state Workers’ Compensation Commission sided with it.
Illinois Supreme Court’s reasoning
The case went up the chain to the state supreme court, which ruled in the chef’s favor. The court ruled that the fact that the chef’s injury was not directly caused by cooking or managing others in the kitchen could not block benefits. “The acts that caused claimant’s knee injury were risks incident to his employment because these were acts his employer might reasonably expect him to perform,” Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. wrote in the court’s decision.
This ruling shows that a wide range of work-related injuries can qualify you for needed benefits while you are out of work recovering. Even if your employer denies your initial claim, you can still win on appeal.