Don’t fall victim to the “There Ain’t Nothing Wrong With the Floor” defense. If you trip over an object on the floor at work and fall, you are almost certain to be covered by the workers’ compensation laws. But what happens if you simply fall at work on a completely level floor or on a smooth rug and there is no obvious cause for your fall? What if your employer responds that you can not get workers’ compensation benefits because “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall? Is the employer right?
Are you covered by workers’ compensation if you fall at work?
Let’s look at three different scenarios:
Let’s assume that my paralegal, Ashley, is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and trips over a magazine that was inadvertently dropped on the floor by a client. Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?
Yes, she is covered because she suffered an injury by accident at work during the course and scope of her employment.
Let’s now assume that my paralegal, Ashley, is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and loses her balance and falls for no apparent reason. There was nothing specifically on the floor that caused her to fall. Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?
Yes, she needs only to prove a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is required to be performed and the resulting injury. The fact that she suffered an “unexplained fall” does not preclude Ashley from being covered by workers’ compensation. There does not have to be some work hazard on the floor causing the employee to fall in order for there to be workers’ compensation coverage. Instead, she again only needs to prove that she was injured during the course and scope of her employment. It is no defense for the employer to deny coverage because “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall.
Let’s assume that Ashley has a bad knee which has bothered her for years. As she is walking down the hall with a hand full of files, her bad knee simply gives away and she falls. There was nothing on the floor to cause her to fall. As she was being helped up from the floor by her co-workers, Ashley says to everyone that “my knee just gave away.” Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?
No, in this case Ashley would be determined to have suffered an “idiopathic fall.” That is a fall caused solely by an inherent medical condition (the bad knee) or weakness which is specific to Ashley. An “idiopathic fall” is much different than an “unexplained fall” described above in Situation 2. In an “idiopathic fall” the burden of proof is on the employer to establish that the fall was caused solely by Ashley’s inherent medical condition. It will be easy for the employer to prove that Ashley’s fall was idiopathic because she admits it when she tells everyone that “my knee just gave away.” A fall caused by fainting is also an example of an idiopathic fall.
The Moral of the Story
If you suffer a fall a work, you will be covered by workers’ compensation if a specific work hazard (like water on the floor or an object on the floor) causes you to fall or if your fall is simply unexplained. The only way you lose is if the employer can prove that your “unexplained fall” was actually an “idiopathic fall” in that it was caused solely by your inherent medical condition which had nothing at all to do with your work or work environment. Therefore, if you do have the misfortune of falling at work, don’t haphazardly make a statement in the midst of your natural embarrassment that you fell because your bad knee gave away!
If you fall at work and have questions regarding your claim, please do not hesitate to contact Ernie Trammell at Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC. Ernie Trammell has been a practicing law for 32 years and has focused the last 15 years of his practice solely on representing injured workers in workers’ compensation claims in South Carolina and Georgia.
****Regardless of anything mentioned above, the first thing you should do after injuring yourself at work is notify your supervisor of the accident and any injuries sustained. Next, call the attorneys at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC, to determine your rights under WC. Mr. Trammell is very experienced in a wide range of issues clients face everyday when injured on the job. Along with our knowledgeable and experienced staff, the attorneys at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC, will personally work day-to-day on your WC claim.
RELATED ARTICLES by Ernie Trammell: