Illinois Court Appeals wants to make all parking lot injuries compensable
ILLINOIS WORKERS COMP UPDATE
The Illinois Court of Appeals handed down a decision in Smith v. IWCC on January 8, 2019, reversing a unanimous Commission decision which denied benefits to claimant who slipped and fell on an ice-covered parking lot and held that the petitioner failed to show an increased risk. (Read the entire decision HERE.)
FACTS OF THE CASE
In Smith v. IWCC, the claimant slipped and fell on ice and snow in a lot owned by the Employer. Claimant had already clocked out from work. Although the parking lot was owned and maintained by the Employer, the lot was also open to the general public.
The Commission, in a 3-0 decision, found that petitioner failed to establish that she faced an increased risk versus the general public. The Commission found that because the lot was open to and used by members of the general public, the petitioner, as an employee, “was not exposed to any greater risk.” Smith. The Commission further concluded that “the accumulation of snow in the parking lot represented a natural accumulation as there was no evidence that [Employer] created or contributed to a hazard.” Id.
The Court of Appeals reversed the Commission, stating: “[w]hether a parking lot is used primarily by employees or by the general public, the proper inquiry is whether the employer maintains and provides the lot for its employees’ use. If this is the case, then the lot constitutes part of the employer’s premises. The presence of a hazardous condition on the employer’s premises that causes a claimant’s injury supports the finding of a compensable accident.”
WHY IS THIS DECISION IMPORTANT
There have been several conflicting decisions from the Illinois Court of Appeals in recent years on the issue of whether injuries on parking lots are or are not compensable. The Smith decision is concerning in that the appellate courts may find that all slip and fall accidents on snow or ice are compensable so long as the accident occurs on the employer’s premises, regardless of whether the location of the fall was open to the general public.
As you deal with ice/snow parking lot injuries, continue to aggressively investigate these claims, including:
- Documenting the condition of the premises
- Documenting ownership of the lot
- Documenting what the employee was doing at the time of the injury
- Documenting what the employee was carrying
- Documenting the type of shoes the employee was wearing at the time of the accident
- Documenting whether there were any distractions present
- Documenting whether the employee was coming from or going to work
- Documenting whether the accident occurred on the way to run an errand or during a lunch break
If you have any specific cases where this decision might apply, please feel free to call or email me at any time to discuss.