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New Decisions by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission Define the Term "Traveling Employee"

Workers' Compensation law, like any law, is fluid, and subject to a certain amount of change. This is true in any state, but especially relevant in Illinois, where workers' compensation reform is high on the list of lawmaker priorities. Sometimes, it is not a change in the law that captures the attention of Algonquin workers' compensation attorneys, but rather an interpretation of existing law.

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The Role of the Workers' Compensation Commission

In Illinois, the Workers' Compensation Commission resolves disputes between employers and employees involved in work-related incidents. The case is tried first by an arbitrator and this decision may be reviewed by a panel of 3 commissioners. Once this process is complete, appeals may be heard by the Circuit Court, Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court.

When the Workers' Compensation Commission decides on a case, it's often seen as a clarification of the laws surrounding workplace injuries. While there was no change to existing law, it's important for workers' compensation attorneys to follow these developments closely.

Who is a Traveling Employee?

In order to be eligible for workers' compensation benefits in Illinois, one must show that an injury happened during the course of their employment. When considered a traveling employee, coverage may be expanded to the ride to and from work. While this is generally not compensable, it might be, if certain conditions are met.

Technically speaking, a "traveling employee" is someone who is required to travel away from an employer's premises in order to perform a job. The term is fairly broad and open to a certain level of interpretation. This may apply to an employee who is required to stay out of town for business purposes, and workers' compensation may be received, even if the injury did not occur while working. If a situation is "reasonably foreseeable," it is generally covered. For example, an employee who is injured while dining out at a hotel restaurant may be covered, even if this employee is technically not working at the time. Injuries that occur while engaging in certain activities, such as sightseeing, are generally not covered.

Traveling employees are not just truck drivers who make long hauls. Short-distance delivery drivers, municipal workers or repair technicians can also be considered traveling employees.

A Significant Case

Most Illinois employees are eligible for workers' compensation benefits if injured during the course of employment. One recent defining case involved a claimant who worked as a car hauler. His job involved loading vehicles onto an 18-wheeler at his employer's terminal and delivering these cars to dealerships. On most nights, the driver used his personal vehicle to drive from his home to work. Occasionally, he spent the night at a hotel, while traveling to deliver cars.

On the day that the injury took place, the man planned to drive from his home to the employer's premises, because he anticipated an overnight stay on the road, and so he packed a suitcase. While loading the suitcase into his car, he felt pain which radiated through his back and down his legs. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission determined that lifting this overnight bag was not an accident that happened during the course of his employment. They further determined that the risk of this injury was personal and did not arise out of employment. In this case, he was preparing for a commute and not yet considered a traveling employee.

Injured on the Road. Points to Consider.

Just because an injury takes place on the road, or while preparing to get on the road, does not mean that it is compensable by the workers' compensation program. Even if an accident or injury is not determined to have taken place during the course of employment, it doesn't mean that the injured party is not eligible for any form of compensation. An Algonquin worker compensation attorney can provide information regarding workers' compensation eligibility, and may also discuss third-party claims.

When a traveling employee is injured because of the actions or negligence of someone who is not an employee or co-worker, a third-party liability suit may be filed. For example, if a delivery driver is injured because of a slip and fall accident, resulting from improper maintenance of the recipient's property, compensation may be available.

Common third-party liability claims include:

  • Slip and fall or unsafe premises accidents

  • Construction accidents

  • Motor vehicle collisions

  • Product liability, such as faulty machinery

Because workers' compensation cases in Illinois are often multi-faceted, it is advisable to consult with an Algonquin worker compensation attorney to discuss the intricacies of a case. As with any laws, workers' compensation regulations are ever-changing and each individual case must be considered separately.

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