Your employer's liability for any injury you suffer usually starts when you clock in for the day. It ends when you clock out again. However, what if you fall on the ice in the parking lot at work and injure your back or knee (or some other body part)? An average of 29% of all workers' compensation claims involve slips on snow or ice. You may still be entitled to workers' compensation. Here's what you should know.
Is The Place You Fell Controlled By Your Employer?
Areas like sidewalks and parking lots, which are controlled by your employer, are considered an extension of your workplace. This is true even if your employer only rents the area, or pays to have a landscaper maintain it.
For example, imagine you work in a fast food restaurant and your shift is over. You clock out, and leave through the kitchen door, which is closer to your car. Unfortunately, the ice on the parking lot in the back is pretty slick, and you fall and tear a muscle in your knee.
Your employer is still required to pay your workers' compensation because the parking lot is under his or her control and an "extension" of the workplace. Essentially, it's no different than if you had walked into a factory setting and fallen on machine oil that someone had spilled on the floor.
Are You In An Area Employees Are Permitted To Cross When Coming Or Going?
One thing that's important to note is that you're only eligible for compensation from a fall while you are exiting and entering your workplace if you are crossing an area that your employer not only controls but also permits you to use.
For example, if the fast food restaurant's manager is aware that employees routinely leave through the kitchen door, in order to cut through the back parking lot (which is less well maintained than the area most used by customers), your knee injury is covered under workers' comp.
However, if your manager has expressly forbidden employees from parking in the back of the lot during snowy weather, and has no idea that you are still parking back there, your fall will probably not be covered.
Does It Matter That There's Snow And Ice Everywhere?
Workers' compensation can be denied if your risk of injury would have been pretty much the same anywhere. The example used by the courts involved a case where an employee fell off her own sandal while at work, injuring herself. Basically, the court said that she would have been equally at risk of the accident no matter where she had been, or what she was doing.
However, the courts have said that when an employee has to cross an icy parking lot to get into the workplace that it isn't a danger he or she would experience anywhere, doing anything. In other words, he or she is exposed to the danger only because he or she is coming or going from work. It doesn't matter that the general conditions in the whole neighborhood are snowy and icy.
Employers may try to fight slip and fall cases during snowy weather for any number of reasons (including how far away the employee parked from the job, in the case of shared parking lots). If your employer is refusing your claim, contact a workers' compensation attorney from Crowley Ahlers & Roth Co LPA or a similar firm to discuss your claim.