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What is an Accident?

Illinois law provides for payment of compensation for accidental work place injuries. In order to obtain benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, the injured employee must prove that he had an accidental injury which arose out of and in the course of his employment. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act does not define the words “accident” or “arising out of and in the course of one’s employment.” However, Illinois courts have very broadly defined what is meant by the term “accident”.

An accident occurs when a part of the person’s body breaks down under the usual stress of employment activities. An accident is unforeseen and occurs without design. For example, if an individual were to slip and fall in water on the way to the cafeteria, that injury would clearly be an accident as defined by Illinois courts. Also, an individual who lifts a part and feels pain in his back also has sustained an accident under Illinois law. The activity of lifting (which causes pain) is a breakdown of the body under the usual stress of employment.

The employee is not required to prove fault in workers’ compensation cases. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act is designed to be a no fault system to compensate all workplace injuries that arise out of the employment. That is, injuries must be related to some risk of the employment, a risk greater than the risk to the general public.

The concept of “repetitive trauma” has further extended the definition of “accident”. Under repetitive trauma, an individual has sustained an accidental injury when the fact of the injury and its relationship to work becomes readily apparent to a reasonable person. Examples of repetitive trauma involve individuals who have carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a condition which constricts the nerve in the wrist area causing numbness and tingling in certain fingers. Individuals who constantly use their hands while working may suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Repetitive trauma is not limited to carpal tunnel syndrome. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has found repetitive injuries to the back, knees, elbows, shoulders and fingers to be work related if sufficient repetitive trauma is present to cause the injury. Given an accurate history of your work activities to your treating doctor will assist in proving your claim.

If you believe that you have sustained a workplace injury, notice of the accident must be given to a supervisor or other management person within 45 days of the accidental injury. Notice of the injury may be given orally or in writing. The sooner the injury is reported, the greater the likelihood that your claim will not be disputed by your employer.

If you have any questions on this subject, please contact us.