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Home nurse wins benefits for workplace slip-and-fall accident

In a recent workers' compensation appeal, an Indiana court held that a home healthcare nurse was entitled to benefits after a work-related slip-and-fall accident that occurred on the sidewalk outside of a patient's home. Her employer had denied the accident could be considered work-related because she was at no greater risk of a sidewalk slip and fall than the general public, so it shouldn't be considered the fault of the employer.

Fault, however, is not generally an issue in workers' compensation cases. The point of the workers' comp system is to keep employers and employees from having to constantly litigate over the issue of negligence. Instead, the system was set up to eliminate the question of whether an employer was negligent and, instead, begin with the assumption that any injury incurred at work should be compensated.

While there are limitations to that concept, it does not appear they applied to this nurse's case. She was clearly on the job when she went to visit the patient. According to reports, the nurse realized she needed some medical equipment she had left in her car, so she went back outside. On her way back in, she simply lost her footing, she said. She fell onto the concrete sidewalk and injured her arm and hand.

The Indiana court found that she had adequately shown that the slip-and-fall accident was not caused by a separate, non-job-related medical condition, but simply by losing her footing. The employer agreed with that assessment, but said that it should only have to compensate her for injuries caused by risks associated with her work -- not neutral risks anyone could be exposed to in the course of daily life.

The court said the employer was mistaken. While injuries caused by workplace risks are certainly compensable, so are neutral risks. She was on the job when she was injured, so she is entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

Source: Risk & Insurance magazine's Workers' Comp Forum, "Benefits awarded for nurse's stumble on sidewalk," March 25, 2013

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