People can fall for all sorts of reasons. A fall can happen simply because of being in a hurry. Or, because of not paying attention. Or, maybe because there was something slippery on the floor. Or, maybe a container was not put in the proper spot. When it comes to falls, Virginia has requirements that have to be met in order for the fall to be covered. Just being on the clock or at your employer’s location is not enough. Read on to learn a few of the ins and outs of how workers’ compensation can be applied to falls in the work place.
1) How and Why: What caused the fall? What were the surroundings that may have contributed?
You have to know the reason you fell (a slippery/wet floor, insufficient lighting, tripping over an object). Simply reporting that you fell at work will not be enough to get you workers’ compensation benefits. You also have to have suffered a fall that was somehow related to your job. Falling because you tripped in your new high heels will likely not be covered. If you fell because there was water on the floor and you slipped and you did not see the water because you were carrying a tall stack of boxes, then your fall should be covered.
2) Work or every day activities: What were you doing? Is this fall work related or could this have happened anywhere?
Some folks suffer an injury that could have happened anywhere but they just happened to be at work that day. I hear a lot of people say that they were at work and walking into the break room when their knee just “gave out” or they bent over and their back just “locked up,” causing them to fall . They want to know if this can be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. The short answer is probably not. In order for workers’ compensation to cover a fall, it must be related to work. Your knee could have given out at the grocery store, so in order to get workers’ compensation benefits, you need a little more. If you were carrying a box of heavy materials, straining, and your knee gave out causing you to fall, then the injury could be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
3) Horseplay and substances: Was this fall related to your job or something else?
If you fall at work because you were involved in an altercation with a co-worker that turned physical, you likely will not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance because it does not cover injuries stemming from personal disagreements. If you fell because you were drunk at work, you will not be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits because you were doing something that was not within the scope of your job. I also hear injured workers say things like “I was just goofing around with a co-worker and lost my balance.” This is another situation that workers’ compensation insurance likely will not cover because the fall was not directly related to your job duties.
4) Personal errands: Was this something your job required or something you did on your own?
People who travel for work can get caught up in this trap. If you are on your way back to the office after a business meeting but then make a small detour to stop by the grocery store or maybe a friend’s house and get injured in the process, you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Once you veer off the path and embark on an errand that is not related to your job, workers’ compensation will not cover your injuries because this was no longer related to your job duties – even if your friend or the store were in the same general area or on the way.
In closing, there really is no easy yes or no answer. The difference between your claim being approved or denied may lie in the details. If your situation involves any of the elements discussed above or if you are still unsure if your injuries will be covered or not, you should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney so they can shed some light on this for you.
If you have questions about if your fall would be covered or not, or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.
~Michele Lewane, Esq.