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Jonathan Rosenfeld

September 14, 2023

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Remote workers are also at risk from work injuries. You could suffer injuries from the work itself or from an accident. Workplace injuries and accidents can happen anywhere you are working. The good news for remote employees is that workers comp benefits cover you no matter where you work.

You may be covered for an accident that occurs in your home, even if you were taking a break for your own personal comfort. It does not matter what employers say. They cannot cancel your right to file a workers’ compensation claim.

If you have suffered an injury at home, you can file a workers’ compensation claim. Nonetheless, the insurance company may still make it difficult for you. There are special challenges associated with a workers’ compensation claim for remote workers, such as proving that your injury was work-related.

If you need help with a remote workers’ compensation claim, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers.

The Most Common Injuries from Remote Work

Here are some of the common injuries that a remote worker can suffer in the employee’s home:

  • Strains to the eyes from being fixated on a screen for an extended period of time
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome from typing on a computer
  • Back injuries because of the ergonomics and the way that the worker is sitting during the day
  • Falls, when the worker has gotten up from their chair to go to another location

No matter what precautions you take at work, you may still suffer a cumulative injury from working overtime. In addition, slip and fall accidents can happen at any time, no matter how careful you are.

The workers’ compensation system does not ask if the employee was to blame for the remote worker’s injury. Even if you were negligent, it would not preclude you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, you would still need to prove that the injury was work-related.

Remote workers in Illinois are covered by workers comp

Does Workers Comp Cover Employees Working From Home?

If you are suffering from injuries or illnesses related to conducting work-related activities, you may be eligible for coverage under workers comp insurance. For you to be covered, it does not matter where the injury happened. Workers’ compensation coverage is not tied to your work location. Thus, a remote worker should be covered under workers’ compensation.

Do Companies Need Workers’ Compensation Insurance for Remote Workers?

Illinois law requires workers’ compensation coverage for all employees, no matter where they work. The state laws are not written with any distinction between types of employees. The only thing that would be a distinction is whether the person who suffered the injury was an employee or an independent contractor.

Small business owners cannot try to save money by determining which employees need coverage and which do not. The answer is very clear, and according to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Board [1]: “Illinois law requires employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance for almost everyone who is hired, injured, or whose employment is localized in Illinois.”

Localized employment in Illinois could be a factory, office, or even a home.

Employers could pay a steep price if they do not have workers’ compensation insurance for all of their employees. Then, the employer could even be charged with a misdemeanor. An injured worker could also sue their employer in a personal injury case. They would be eligible for compensation if they can prove that the employer was negligent.

When Workers’ Compensation Claims Are Covered

In order for you to receive workers’ compensation benefits, your injury or illness must have been sustained in the course of employment. In other words, it must be a work-related injury.

The injury that qualifies you for workers’ compensation could be:

  • A sudden injury from an accident, such as tripping over loose cords or slipping on the floor on the way to a coffee break
  • An illness related to your job
  • A work-related condition that arises

How Your Remote Work Agreement May Affect Workers’ Compensation

Your telework agreement should not have any bearing on whether you are able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The employer cannot do anything that would change their legal obligation to purchase workers’ compensation coverage. They certainly cannot get you to waive your right to a claim in exchange for the ability to work at home

Employers may include safety standards or a safety checklist in your remote work agreement, the failure to follow these standards would not make you ineligible for workers’ compensation.

Even if the remote work agreement prescribes ergonomic standards, the employer may still be not able to contest your workers’ compensation claim based on some way that they claim you were at fault for the injury.

How to Report a Work-Related Injury if You’re Working From Home

The rules of reporting work-related injuries do not change when you are working remotely. You still need to report your injury to your employer in accordance with state law. This requirement is non-negotiable.

In Illinois, you have 45 days from the time that the injury occurs to notify your employer. While the law allows you to make the report orally or in writing, you should make a written report to prove that you reported the injury in time.

If you wait too long to report an injury, you could make your workers comp claim even harder because the insurance carrier will question whether the injuries sustained were related to your job.

In Illinois, you have 45 days to notify your employer about a remote work injury

The Challenges of Workers Comp for Remote Employees

The insurance company is going to put the burden on you to prove that your injury sustained was work-related. Telework is a relatively new phenomenon, but changes in how employees work should not change the existing law and how it is applied.

Even though workers’ compensation laws are decades old, the principles are supposed to cover new scenarios. Certainly, when workers’ compensation insurance first became the law, few could have anticipated that the work environment could shift from the office to your own home.

One of the challenges that you may face is that you would not have any witnesses who saw what happened when you were injured at home.

If you tripped and fell when you were getting up to get a drink of water, you may not have any witnesses to prove that you were doing something that fell under the personal comfort doctrine. The insurance company may claim that you have not suitably proven that your injury was in the course of employment or tied to your specific job duties.

How Does the Personal Comfort Doctrine Affect Your Case?

Regardless of where you are working, the law allows you to perform tasks that make your life more comfortable at work. Your eligibility for workers’ compensation for accidents and injuries does not hit pause because you have to do something like go to the bathroom or get yourself a snack.

The same personal comfort doctrine that applies when you are in a factory or office applies during work hours when you are at home.

In general, you have the legal right to take breaks from work and still be considered on the job. Your coverage does not terminate every time you step away from your desk to open the refrigerator or at the bathroom door.

You can expect that the insurance company is going to ask quite a few questions about the injury and how it happened. The insurance carrier knows about the personal comfort doctrine, but they are trying to draw an outer edge around its coverage.

The Insurance Company Will Make Your Life More Difficult

No matter what, it is a fact that an insurance provider will do everything they can to stand in the way of your benefits. They may claim that your injury is not covered by workers’ compensation. If you work remotely, the insurance company may argue that your injury was not work-related.

Either way, you may be in for a fight when filing a claim after you are injured while working from home.

What Your Workers Compensation Coverage Pays

If you are able to successfully apply for workers compensation benefits, you would be legally entitled to the following:

  • Medical bills that are for care to treat your injuries
  • Lost wages that cover two-thirds of what you were earning before the injury, up to a statutory limit
  • Vocational training that could help you change professions when you are no longer able to perform your old job

Contact Us for Help with Work-Related Injuries

If you are having difficulty obtaining workers comp benefits as an injured worker, the Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help. We can review your case and file an appeal on your behalf.

If you have suffered a work-related injury, it should not matter where it occurs. Your challenge would be proving that it would be covered under workers compensation. Call us today at (888) 424-5757, or send us a message through our website, to discuss your case. You owe us nothing unless you receive workers compensation benefits for your injuries.

References: [1] Illinois Workers Compensation Board

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