What Happens When You Are Injured at Work Off the Clock?

What Happens When You Are Injured at Work Off the Clock?

When you’re injured at work off the clock, you may still be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Many injuries that occur off-the-clock in Illinois are covered by workers’ compensation, provided there’s a connection between work and the injuries. Unfortunately, insurers wrongfully deny many claims from workers because they were injured off the clock.

construction worker getting injured at work off the clock

Examples of off-the-clock injuries that are commonly denied, yet may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, include injuries occurring during lunch or break, parking lot injuries, injuries when going from or coming to work, and injuries sustained during business travel. Obtaining legal representation is crucial before accepting the denial of workers’ comp benefits. Read on to find out more about when you can successfully file a workers’ compensation claim for injuries that occurred off-the-clock.

What Are the Requirements for Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Knowing the eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation is essential to understanding when your injuries may be covered if you’re injured at work off-the-clock. Here are the requirements for workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois:

  • Your employer should have workers’ compensation insurance: Illinois law requires employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover work injuries.
  • You should be an employee: You can file a workers’ compensation claim if you’re an employee of the company or business. People who aren’t employees, such as independent contractors, are typically not eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
  • The injury should be work-related: To be eligible, you need to be injured within the scope of your employment. You’ll need to show that you were doing something aimed at benefiting your employer when you suffered the injury or illness.
  • Report the injury promptly: There are no time limits for settling workers’ compensation cases. However, there are time limits for reporting workplace accidents and injuries. You’ll need to report your workplace accident to your employer no later than 45 days. You should report injuries from radiological exposure within 90 days of suspecting or knowing about the exposure to radiation doses. The statute of limitations for filing workers’ comp claims in Illinois is three years.

When Is It Considered an Off-The-Clock Injury at Work?

An off-the-clock injury is an injury that occurs away from your regular workplace or outside your normal working hours. Employees who suffer these injuries may be entitled to recover compensation through workers’ comp. Just because you weren’t actively performing your job duties when you were injured doesn’t mean you can’t receive workers’ comp benefits. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you determine if your off-the-clock injuries qualify for benefits.

Here’s a closer look at common off-the-clock injuries and the situations where workers’ compensation can cover them to help you avoid giving up your legal rights.

While on Break

Most injuries that occur on the employer’s property during breaks qualify for worker’s compensation benefits. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation if you’re injured because of something in the workplace while taking your break or lunch at the company premises.

For instance, if you suffer food poisoning or a burn at the employer’s on-site cafeteria, or a slip and fall injury due to damaged carpeting or spilled food or liquid during your break, you may be entitled to benefits. Generally, remaining on the company premises during rest or lunch breaks is deemed beneficial for the company, as it saves time and allows employees to remain easily accessible.

You may be eligible to obtain workers’ compensation benefits if you were running work-related errands that furthered your employer’s interests away from your workplace during your lunch break. For example, workers’ compensation will likely cover your injuries if you were hurt while dropping off mail, going to purchase items to be used by the business, picking up lunches for a meeting or your boss, or having a lunch meeting with a client.

Before or After Work

If you’re injured on the company’s premises before clocking in or after clocking out, you may be able to file a claim under the company’s workers’ compensation policy. Injuries that occur before or after work are usually covered by workers’ compensation, provided the injury resulted from a hazard present in your workplace. Your injury may be compensable if you slipped and fell on a poorly maintained sidewalk when coming to work, or were injured by dangerously placed equipment when exiting the building after your shift.

This rule typically doesn’t apply while commuting to and from work. Workers traveling to and from their workplace are typically not considered to be operating in the scope of their employment. As a result, any injuries they suffer during their commute are deemed off the job injuries and aren’t compensable through the workers’ comp system. However, there are certain exceptions.

Injuries sustained during your commute to and from work may be covered by workers’ compensation if:

  • You’re using a car that your employer has provided: Such an arrangement benefits the employer, so workers’ compensation should cover any injuries sustained when using the vehicle. If the car has the company’s advertising message on it, you would be promoting the business whenever you drive the car, thus benefiting your employer. You could also be eligible for workers’ comp benefits if you were involved in an accident in your own car and your employer required you to bring it for use during the workday.
  • Traveling is part of your duty, and you don’t have a fixed workplace: If you usually perform your job duties away from the employer’s workplace or place of business, workers’ compensation would probably apply even when leaving or returning home. For example, a salesperson injured in an accident when driving from home to a sales call may be entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits.
  • You were running an errand for your employer: Your boss or supervisor may ask you to do certain tasks for him or her or the company after work or before getting to work, such as picking up certain items that the company uses. If an injury occurred while you were running special errands, it would likely be covered by workers’ compensation. 

Parking Lot

Employee injuries commonly occur in parking lots. Car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and slips and falls are some causes of employees getting injured in work parking lots. These injuries are a common source of controversy, as workers’ compensation insurers may argue that an employee wasn’t on the clock and, therefore, shouldn’t be compensated for his or her injuries through the workers’ comp system.

The factors that should determine workers’ compensation coverage in parking lot injury cases are the location of the parking area and whether your employer has instructed you to park there. If you’re injured in a parking lot owned by your employer or a part of the parking lot that your employer has designated for employees to park their vehicles, your injuries are likely to be covered by workers’ compensation.

Out-of-Town Business Travel

Under the Worker’s Compensation Act, you may be entitled to receive benefits if you sustain injuries while traveling outside of Chicago, or even out of Illinois, for work. For example, workers’ compensation may cover slip-and-fall injuries suffered in another location where you had traveled on company business, such as for a job-related meeting or conference.

When you’re sent out of town for work, several activities that wouldn’t be covered when at home or your regular workplace are likely to be covered. That’s because you wouldn’t be at that location if it weren’t for your job. You could get workers’ compensation benefits for an injury sustained during the business trip, even if you weren’t actively engaged in a job-related activity at the time of the injury, such as injuries that occur while you’re in your hotel room.

Workers’ compensation doesn’t usually apply to injuries sustained while commuting to and from your office or work site. However, it would cover you if you were injured after another vehicle crashed into your car while driving back to your hotel from performing duties for your employer, such as making deliveries or meeting with clients. You were commuting to the hotel, which served as your temporary home, but staying there directly benefited your employer.

Can You Be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

If you’re considering filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may be worried about your employer retaliating by firing you. The good news is Illinois law prohibits your employer from retaliating or discriminating against you for exercising your right to workers’ compensation. You can’t legally be fired, demoted, or punished for filing a workers’ comp claim.

Workers’ comp insurance companies often improperly deny claims for off-the-clock injuries, even when they’re covered under workers’ compensation laws. Therefore, don’t be surprised when you’re injured at work off-the-clock, and your employer or its workers’ compensation carrier disputes your eligibility for benefits from the outset. However, you should never assume you don’t qualify for benefits because you suffered off-the-clock injuries.

A workers’ comp lawyer will review your situation, guide you on how to proceed, and answer your questions, such as the common one, “How long does a workers’ comp settlement take?” Involving a workers’ compensation lawyer from the start increases your chances of receiving the benefits to which you’re entitled.

David W. Martay David W. Martay
David W. Martay

David W. Martay, a partner at Martay Law Office in Chicago, IL, is a top-rated workers’ compensation lawyer who represents injured employees throughout the state. Known as a highly-skilled advocate for his clients, David has recovered millions for victims of workplace accidents.

Years of Experience: More than 25 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active

Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association

David W. Martay David W. Martay
David W. Martay

David W. Martay, a partner at Martay Law Office in Chicago, IL, is a top-rated workers’ compensation lawyer who represents injured employees throughout the state. Known as a highly-skilled advocate for his clients, David has recovered millions for victims of workplace accidents.

Years of Experience: More than 25 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active

Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association