Workers’ comp case: Does injury while walking at work qualify?

A recent case decides whether a worker injured while walking at work can qualify for benefits.

A recent workers’ compensation case called into question whether or not an injury suffered while walking at work can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Ultimately, the court found that although the injury occurred while at work, it was not caused by work. Due to this distinction, the worker was not eligible for benefits.

Applicable facts and analysis from Colleen Fitzgerald v. WalMart

The case, Colleen Fitzgerald v. WalMart, involves a worker that suffered from sudden, significant back and leg pain while working for WalMart in 2010. During the day of her injury, she had been lifting at the front register, pushing and pulling racks and carts containing shoes and other merchandise throughout the store as well as pallets from the warehouse. While walking through the store, she felt a "pop" in her lower back that led to pain radiating down her leg. She informed her manager of her injury and was told she could leave prior to the end of her scheduled shift due to the pain.

The worker sought treatment from her family doctor and was diagnosed with various injuries including disc protrusions, herniations and tears. The doctor told the worker to refrain from working for 12 weeks. The worker also sought additional treatments from a chiropractor and other physicians. When the worker went out on leave, she noted in the Leave of Absence forms that the absence was for a "serious health condition" but did not state that it was a "workers’ compensation" injury. When asked why she did not state it was a workers’ comp injury she stated she was unaware that she could fill out a claim and that she had not intended to because at the time she thought the injury was minor.

The worker eventually petitioned for workers’ compensation coverage. A medical professional for the respondent confirms the original diagnosis of annular tears and disc herniations as well as the need for additional medical care. However, he also states that the fact that the onset of pain did not occur during the completion of "any pushing, pulling, lifting or any other work-related tasks" was significant and that "merely walking" was "inconsistent with a traumatic type work-related accident." This finding supported the court’s holding that the petitioner failed to prove her injuries arose out of a work related accident.

Lessons from the case for future workers’ compensation claims

This case provides an example of the complexity of workers’ compensation claims. Even injuries received while working may not qualify for benefits. As a result, those who are injured on the job are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. This legal professional will review the details of your case and help guide you through the process, working to better ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled.