Injured Workers May Not Always Recover for Falls at Work

It seems obvious that a fall at work would be considered to be a workers’ compensation injury. In most cases falls are considered to be payable. However, as in most areas of the law, there are exceptions.

The general rule concerning fall cases is that where the injury is clearly attributable to an unknown condition of the employee, with no factors intervening or operating to cause or contribute to the injury, there will be no recovery. However, where the injury is associated with any risk attributable to the employee, compensation should be allowed even though the employee may have suffered from an unknown condition which precipitated or contributed to the injury.

The following are examples of fall cases which have been held not to be payable:

  1. An injured work got into his car to leave the defendant’s plant. The night watchman, however, called the worker to come to him; and in getting out of the car to learn what the watchman wanted, the injured worker slipped on a fruit peeling. The court denied the claim, writing that: “When an injury cannot fairly be traced to the employment as a contributing proximate cause, or comes from a hazard to which the worker would be equally exposed apart from employment or from a hazard to others, it does not arise out of the employment.” This is a 1938 case and probably would not be followed today. Certainly, it should not be followed.
  2. In a case in which the injured worker fell after his leg (for no apparent reason) gave way, the court held that there would be no recovery.
  3. Where the injured worker was subject to epileptic fits and while driving his employer’s truck felt a seizure approaching, the worker stopped the truck on the side of the road, after which he suffered an epileptic seizure and lost consciousness. When he came to, his body was on the outside of the truck and his hands were on the steering wheel. He had suffered broken bones caused by the fall from the seat of the truck. The court denied benefits for the injured worker and held that the evidence disclosed that the sole cause of the fall from the truck was the epileptic seizure, and that it was therefore independent and unrelated to the employment.