Workers’ Compensation Accident

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Explained

Chapter 4 – Accidental Injury

This chapter discusses the types of accidents that are covered by the workers’ compensation act, as well as the specific requirements that an accident “arise out of” and be “in the course of” the employment.

The Workers’ Compensation Act requires that an employee sustain an accident at work which “arises out of” and “in the course of” their employment.  We’ll touch on the what is necessary to establish each of these required facts.

1.   Types of Accidents

A. Single Event Trauma

There are a few “types” of accidents that are important to workers’ compensation.  The first is the common “single event” sort of accident. This is an accident that is traceable to a specific time place and cause.  Some common examples would be a falls, being hit by a forklift, and bending and lifting accidents. Common in these situations is an immediate onset of pain, although frequently an employee is not certain they have injured themselves until a few minutes or hours have passed and the pain continues to worsen.

B. Repetitive Trauma

Another common type of accident is one involving repetitive or cumulative trauma.  In these claims there is no single event that is responsible for the onset of the injury, but rather the injury was caused by repeated activity over the course of several hours, days, weeks or months.  The more common examples of repetitive trauma are the nerve compression syndromes, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis type injuries.

C. Psychological Injuries

We have left, for the time being, a discussion of psychological injuries.  These can result from no specific or direct trauma to the person but by the situation at hand causing a severe psychological shock to the employee.  Analysis of this sort of injury is very complicated not capable of being explained in a few paragraphs.  We would strongly suggest you consult with an attorney in the event you have questions about psychological injuries.

2.Arising Out Of

Just because a person suffers an accidental injury or onset of a medical condition while at work is not alone sufficient to allow for the recovery of workers’ compensation benefits.  The accidental injury must “arise out of” some risk associated with the employment.  That is, the employee is performing some activity in furtherance of the employer’s interest or incidental thereto.

An injury “arises out of” the employment if it occurs as a result of a risk connected with or incidental to the employment.  The mere fact that the person was at the location of the injury because of his employment (in the course of the employment), alone, is insufficient.

In determining whether an injury arises out of the employment, the courts focus on the degree of risk of injury present to the employee, as compared to that to which the general public is exposed.  If the employment creates a risk of injury greater than that to which the general public is exposed, then it can be considered to arise out of the employment.  A few examples may be helpful:

  • You are at work and bend over to tie your shoelace and injure your back in the process. This accident probably does not arise out of the employment, although some arguments could be made depending on the circumstances.
  • You bend over to pick up a box of parts at work and injure your back. This accident probably is arising out of the employment.  The risk of injury by picking up the box of parts is clearly employment related.
  • You are sitting at your desk and have a heart attack. Without knowing more, this is probably not arising out of the employment.  There was nothing about the employment that increased the risk of having a heart attack as far as we know.
  • You are lifting heavy logs and carrying them away from a cutting field when you have the onset of a heart attack. This is probably an accident arising out of the employment as lifting and carrying heavy objects puts excessive strain on the heart which can result in a heart attack.

We will also briefly state that there is an exception to the requirement that an accidental injury “arise out of “ the employment known as the personal comfort doctrine.  If the injury in question happens while the employee is performing some action that, though not necessary in furtherance of the employer’s interest, is reasonably related to the employee’s personal comfort, the injuries can be covered. In such situations, the law focuses whether the employer retained control over the employee at the time of the injury, whether the employee exposed himself to an unreasonable risk outside of their normal duties, and whether the employer knew of the conduct and had no objection to it.

3.   In the Course Of

In the course of employment merely refers to the accident having occurred at work and during working hours.  As simple of a question as this may seem, in practice it is not as simple.

Injuries that occur while going to work or coming from work may also be covered if there is some connection to the employment.  The same can be said for Injuries that happen at work, but while off the clock.  A fall in the employer’s parking lot after work may be covered depending on the circumstances.  Travelling employees are also generally considered to be covered 24/7 while travelling as they are in that position due to their employment in the first place.


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