Hurt on the job – lunch breaks and parking

Our office sees all sorts of on the job injuries.  Most are straight forward – you’re hurt on the job, you get workers’ compensation.  But there are some circumstances which are not that clear cut.  This month’s article addresses two common scenarios; getting hurt during a lunch break and getting hurt coming to or leaving work in the parking lot.


Workers’ compensation law is relatively clear, except for a few exceptions, if you are injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  But what if you are on your lunch “break” and not on the clock?  You’re clearly hurt at work, but are you entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?  Many, if not all Illinois workers look forward to lunch breaks because it represents not only a time when they can refresh their bodies with sustenance, but it is also a time when they can socialize and get to know co-workers better. Illinois workers’ compensation was set up to take care of injured workers. Many workers, however, are unsure whether they are covered by this program should they get injured while on lunch break.


Eligibility for Illinois Workers’ Compensation

According to Illinois law, you are eligible for compensation if injured during lunch break as long as you were acting in furtherance of your employer. That is to say, if your lunch break was in the scope of your employment terms, and if the injury occurred on work premises, you may be able to collect Illinois workers’ compensation.


Here are the requirements for the eligibility for compensation for injured workers in Illinois:

  • The injury must have taken place in an employment zone
  • Your injury must be directly connected to work duties
  • The injury should not happen during any unpaid hours or commuting times

The above rules can be summarized as follows.  You have to be on premises, if you leave to get lunch on your own time, it’s not workers’ comp.  The injury has to have some connection with your employment.  If you trip on your own feet on your lunch break, no workers’ comp.  But, if your chair breaks as you sit down for lunch, or you trip on a computer cable while walking to the cafeteria, you are probably covered.  Many workers’ compensation insurance companies deny all lunch work injuries, but we have successfully recovered benefits for many clients in these circumstances.


Another common work injury occurs after you have parked your car and you are walking into work, or after you have clocked out and you are walking to your car.  Typically, it involves some sort of fall resulting injury, but we have handled cases were clients were attacked in the parking lot, or hit by another car or even had a tree fall on them (actual case).


The insurance company will argue you are not considered an employee because you are not “on the clock.”  But this does not end the inquiry.  The determinative fact in parking lot workers’ compensation cases is where the parking area is located and whether the employee was instructed to park there.


For example, if you have a “company” parking lot where all employees park, think a factory, you are probably covered.  If you work in a mall or strip mall and the employer tells you to park in a designated area, i.e. in the back spots so you don’t take customer spots, you are probably covered.  But if you park in a parking garage or on the street or you otherwise decide where to park, you are probably not covered under workers’ compensation for your parking lot injury.


Lunch break and parking lot injury cases are very fact specific.  If you have been injured on the job, you should contact us for a free consultation.  In tricky cases such as these, having the right legal representation early on in a case can make the difference between making a recovery and not.