I randomly got a call from a person who was in a car accident while driving their company vehicle. They wanted to know if their employer could be made to pay their traffic ticket. I asked if he was injured, and he said yes. I then asked if he was getting work comp benefits, and he told me that he wasn't eligible because he got a ticket for the accident. I wondered where he got that info and he said his boss told him that.
I wanted to scream, “THAT'S NOT HOW THIS WORKS!” because I hate it when workers in Illinois get lied to. Instead, I calmly said, “That's not how Illinois workers' compensation law works.”
Illinois is a “no fault” law when it comes to work related injuries. That means that even though my caller turned left when oncoming traffic was going straight, he can still make a workers compensation claim.
It also means that if you are running down a flight of stairs and trip because you were going to fast to make a meeting, you can get benefits even though you were being a bit careless.
It means that if you drop a box on your foot and break it, you are eligible for Illinois work comp even though you have nobody to blame but yourself.
And if you are lifting a box and throw your back out because you used bad form, you still get your medical bills paid for as well as your time off work and a settlement.
So does fault never matter when it comes to an Illinois work injury? You'd think it doesn't but it's really a no fault law with an asterisk*.
If you are drunk or high when you get hurt, that is a violation of your job duties and will likely prevent you from getting benefits unless you can show that being inebriated didn't contribute to you having an accident.
If you are engaged in “horseplay” and get hurt then you won't get work comp benefits in IL. What does that mean? Let's say you are a security guard and drive a golf cart around a property as part of your job. If you and another security guard decide to drag race each other and you crash, your injuries wouldn't be covered. That's because your accident wasn't part of your job duties.
Another example where fault actually does matter is if you get in to a fight with a co-worker. If you are the aggressor and then get hurt when they fight back, you will not get work comp benefits because you started the fight.
There are other exceptions, but these in my opinion are the big ones. The bottom line is that in most cases fault does not matter when it comes to Illinois work comp law. And unlike personal injury cases, if you are partially at fault, it doesn't reduce the amount you will receive. My caller in the car accident will get that same amount he would have been entitled to had he been rear-ended.
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.