The Not-So-Simple Slip and Fall

It’s simple, right? You slip and fall at work, and you get workers’ compensation benefits. Not so fast…it’s not as easy as you may think. How do you know whether your slip and fall entitles you to workers’ compensation benefits in North Carolina? Here are some guidelines:

Did you fall in the “course and scope” of employment?

Generally, to be compensable, the slip and fall must occur during the “course and scope of employment.” Most folks incorrectly think this term means the incident must occur during normal work hours, and on workplace property. Nope, not necessarily. Oh, and the reverse applies as well – just because you slipped and fell on company property and during work hours does not mean you fell “in the course and scope.” So, what gives?

The problem is that the term “course and scope” has a complex legal meaning which does not necessarily jive with the lay interpretation. For example, workers have collected workers’ compensation benefits for incidents occurring when they are not even on the clock, such as before or after work. Other workers have collected benefits for slips and falls occurring off company property, such as while driving to and from worksites. Some workers collect benefits when injured while performing work they were never assigned. And some workers may even collect benefits under both circumstances – off the property and off the clock – for example, if they slip and fall off-site while running an errand for the employer. Another example is a slip and fall occurring during a weekend or evening company social event, if attendance is mandatory or encouraged.

Determining whether a slip and fall occurred during the course and scope of employment is complicated, and insurance adjusters often get it wrong. If you have a question about your slip and fall, the attorneys at Ricci Law may be able to help.

Did your fall “arise out of” the employment?

Just because you happened to be at the office or plant when you fell does not mean you are entitled to benefits. If the activity you were doing at the time did not arise out of the employment, meaning directly or indirectly benefit the employer, it may not be compensable. Some examples include workers who slip and fall during smoke breaks, while participating in horseplay, or while engaging in personal business at work.

But then again, whether the employer benefited from the activity is not always clear. In some of the above circumstances, for example, the worker ends up collecting benefits. Why? Because the courts found that the employer derived some intangible benefit from the activity even if the employer never specifically requested the worker to engage in that activity.

For example, if evidence supports a worker’s claim that the employer benefits when the employees rest and take regular breaks, then a slip and fall during a break may end up being compensable. And if the evidence shows that the employer encouraged worker horseplay from time to time to foster relationships in the workplace, then even a slip and fall during horseplay may end up being compensable.

The bottom line? When it comes to interpreting legal terms to determine the compensability of a slip and fall incident, often it could go either way; the outcome often ends up hinging on the specific evidence presented and the legal arguments of the attorney. The workers’ compensation specialists at Ricci Law Firm closely follow the law interpreting slip and fall incidents, because nuances develop regularly as new appellate cases are published.

If you sustained a slip and fall accident in or out of work and believe it may be covered under workers’ compensation, the attorneys at Ricci Law Firm may be able to help. Contact one of our specialist workers’ compensation attorneys for more information.

Workers’ Compensation Lawyer NOW serving Greenville, Durham, Goldsboro, and Raleigh

I’m Brian Ricci, a workers’ compensation lawyer serving Greenville and Raleigh. If you or a loved one has sustained an injury at work, please call me at (252) 777-2222 for free, friendly advice.

I am a longtime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

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