Worker fractures a hip trying to get chips from a vending machine: A Circuit City employee was attempting to retrieve a bag of chips for a coworker, and the vending machine malfunctioned. He tried to jostle the chips loose by hitting the machine with his body and ended up fracturing his hip during the process. Because he was getting the chips for a coworker, the claim supervisor ruled in his favor.
Drinking the wrong drink: An Arby’s employee grabbed a cup that looked similar to hers. Instead of getting a refreshing drink, she consumed lye which burnt her esophagus. The claim was ruled in her favor because the lye had no business being stored in the break room.
French fry neck injury: A McDonald’s employee rescued a bag of falling fries from hitting the floor. During the commotion, she felt a pop and burning sensation in her neck. Because of the fast-paced work environment, she wasn’t immediately able to stop her work, so she won her claim because of this and the nature of the injury.
A joke went bad: During a hot day, some workers on a job site decided to take a break from the heat in an air-conditioned work vehicle. One employee stuck in the heat decided to tell another employee there was an emergency on the other side of the job site to trick him into vacating his seat. The employee responded by jumping quickly out of the vehicle to head to the rescue and realized the trick. When trying to get back to his seat quickly, he misjudged jumping over a trench by the vehicle and ended up breaking his leg. He won his workers’ comp claim.
The panhandler and the pizza employee: A panhandler entered a pizza establishment in an attempt to get free pizza. A returning delivery driver saw the panhandler being chased out of the restaurant and intervened to help him find the exit quicker, and that’s when the panhandler stabbed him, puncturing his lung. Luckily, he had been on the clock when injured, so his claim was approved.
Working from home incident: A woman who a large company employed was working from home and had to retrieve some work supplies from her garage. On the way, she tripped over her own dog and broke her wrist. While she initially didn’t think she could recover workmans’ comp, she was awarded her claim since she was on the clock.
Fermented fumes: In Messina, Italy, three workers died in a tank of fermenting grape juice after one was overwhelmed by the fumes and fell in. The other two coworkers tried to rescue him but also fell in, perhaps from the fumes too. Sadly, all three died.
Mauled by a bear: A state park worker was mauled by a bear while under the influence of marijuana. However, the judge ruled in his favor citing that bears are “equal opportunity maulers.” Therefore, his being under the influence had nothing to do with the claim.
Overwhelming odors: 150 people at a call center started feeling dizzy and had trouble breathing. It was immediately assumed that employees were the victim of some sort of toxic chemical exposure. One hundred of the employees were treated at the scene, and thirty had to seek hospital treatment. The culprit wasn’t poisonous chemicals but perfume.
Packing plant death: An employee at a Bumble Bee Tuna plant died after being stuck in a cylinder chamber called a retort which sterilizes cans before being labeled. The plant received seven OSHA citations and $74,000 in fines.
While the above examples represent some truly obscure work-related injuries, there are times when you may not realize your unusual injury can and should qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits. Let’s examine some scenarios where your employer should be held liable.
Company-sponsored events: Many companies will encourage workers to participate in offsite events for either team-building activities or PR like 5K charity walks. Suppose you sprain your ankle at the walkathon, or you slip and fall at the bowling event. In that case, your employer could be held liable if the event was company-sponsored.
Lunch breaks: Employers are required to maintain safe working conditions, and that even includes the breakroom. Suppose you’re eating a sandwich and minding your own business, and a TV that was poorly affixed to the wall comes loose and hits you in the head. If you were off the clock, your employer would still be held liable for your injuries either through workers’ compensation insurance or regular insurance. Furthermore, if your boss sends you to pick up lunch for everyone at the local pizza parlor and you get into a car accident, you should be able to file a claim. However, if you were simply getting your own lunch and got injured, they would not likely be responsible.
Company travel: If you drive a company vehicle and get injured in a car crash, you could be eligible for workers’ comp benefits. Furthermore, if you’re injured while driving to work-related appointments or client meetings, you may be eligible for compensation.
Work-related illness: If you develop an illness (physical or mental) at work that can be connected to the building, toxic work environment, and culture, or materials used on the job, you could be eligible for workers’ comp benefits or more depending on the circumstances. Only a workers’ comp attorney can help you decide which form of compensation to pursue and how to prove it’s connected to your work.
Hearing loss: Some jobs are noisier than others and, over time, can result in hearing loss or impairment. You may be able to receive some form of compensation for this type of work-related injury.
Certain pre-existing conditions: Suppose you were diagnosed with a herniated disc in your back, and it was treated successfully years ago. But now, you find yourself having to lift heavy objects repetitively and are now experiencing some of the same symptoms again. In that case, you could have a claim based upon aggravation to a preexisting condition.
Misconduct: While you may not be proud of yourself for dismissing company safety guidelines and getting injured as a result, workers’ compensation was designed so that workers don’t have to prove the company was negligent to receive workers’ comp benefits. However, if the injury you caused yourself was intentional, don’t expect a positive outcome.