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Ice vs Water


The courts in Dukich vs.Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission recently misapplied, in my opinion, the law, as it applies to falls on premises. The losses previously been that wherever there is a fall on premises, so long as it arises from a defect, like snow, or ice, that the fall is compensable. This often occurs as people are coming to and going from work. Dukich acknowledges these cases but makes a strange distinction. The worker was going to lunch when she fell in a parking lot that was wet from rain. The arbitrator awarded benefits. The Worker’s Compensation commission reversed the finding of the arbitrator and denied benefits. The appellate court affirmed the Worker’s Compensation Commission. The appellate court questioned whether the rain was the sole reason for the fall, suggesting that the claimant’s shoes might have had something to do with it.

The court found that work did not increase the risk the plaintiff would fall. This is questionable finding. The plaintiff would not have been at the worksite which was wet had it not been for work. While it is possible the plaintiff would have gotten wet somewhere else, he would not have been forced to do so by his employer.

The court distinguishes falls on ice and snow from water caused by rain. This is not a reasonable distinction. Both ice and water are the same compound. One is a little more slippery than the other, but that is all. Both fall from the sky and land on an employer’s property, increasing the risk that people get hurt.

A possible distinction is that with ice employers are expected to clear the ice, whereas with water, nobody clean water from a parking lot. But this is not a just valid distinction. Regardless of whether the employer clears the lot or not, is so long as the fall is on ice, falls are compensable.

This case will undoubtedly be cited frequently by defense in arguing that injuries are not compensable. Defense counsel argue that there is no increased risk in “neutral risk” cases. To distinguish between ice and snow and water as a reason not to allow compensation makes no sense whatsoever. The court got this case wrong.

At Ackerman Law Office we frequently in the Worker’s Compensation claims concerning falls at work. We hate to see the courts confuse the issue in situations like this. Cases involving increased risk compared to the general public are difficult as it is without making unreasonable and illogical distinctions. We handle workers compensation claims on a contingent fee, although we try to limit the number of cases we take so we do a good job for people we represent. If you need help on a workers compensation, personal injury, or medical neglect case, please consider hiring us.

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