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IWCC Sounds Alarm when Paramedic Slips and Falls on His Own Driveway

Attorney Colin Mills recently persuaded the IWCC to reverse an arbitration decision in petitioner’s favor and find that the petitioner failed to establish that his accident arose out of and in the course of his employment. As a result of the Commission’s finding, the petitioner was awarded zero benefits.

In this case, the petitioner, a Paramedic, was returning to the employer’s station house in the employer’s ambulance when he decided to stop at his home in order to obtain equipment and materials to repair damage that he had caused to drywall at the station house. During his stop at home, the petitioner slipped in his own driveway and fractured his ankle. The petitioner underwent surgery, missed approximately four months of work, and filed a WC claim.

It was not disputed that the petitioner is considered a traveling petitioner in his capacity as a Paramedic.  As a general rule, a traveling petitioner is held to be in the course of his or her employment from the time that he or she leaves home until they return. This type of employee may be compensated for an injury as long as the injury was sustained while engaged in an activity which was both reasonable and foreseeable to the employer.

It was the respondent’s position that this accident was not one that arose out of acts which the petitioner might be reasonably expected to perform incident to his assigned duties, and that the stop at home was unforeseeable. The employer had not directed the petitioner to make any repairs at the station house. As such, we argued that this deviation took the petitioner out of the course of his employment and that no benefits should be awarded. The Commission (in a 2-1 Decision) agreed. The Commission specifically found that the petitioner’s duties did not include fixing or repairing drywall and, furthermore, that the petitioner returned home on his own initiative, and for his own purposes, as he was never asked by the employer to fix the drywall. As such, the Commission found that it was neither reasonable nor foreseeable that the petitioner would then need to obtain repair materials from his home.

As the petitioner failed to establish that his accident arouse out of and in the course of his employment with his employer, he was awarded zero benefits. The petitioner has filed a Petition for Review at the Circuit Court of Winnebago County.

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