Question: Is there worker’s compensation coverage for an injury that occurs when you are going to your car to get work related items?
In 2011, Kathy worked for A Plus as a home health care registered nurse. While visiting a patient at the patient’s home, Kathy realized that she had left some medical equipment in her car, and she returned to her car to retrieve the equipment. On her way back inside the patient’s house, Kathy lost her footing and fell on a concrete sidewalk, injuring her left arm and hand. Kathy filed her original application for adjustment of claim with the Board, which she later amended. Kathy’s application was heard by a Single Hearing Member (“SHM”). Following that hearing, the SHM concluded that Kathy’s injuries did not arise out of her employment. In particular, the SHM acknowledged Kathy’s evidence that she had not fallen due to a mental illness or condition and further credited her statement that she had simply lost her own footing. But the SHM then found that Kathy’s own description of the cause of her fall indicates it was of a personal nature. Accordingly, the SHM denied her claim and she appealed resulting in the Board concluding that Kathy’s fall was a neutral risk and therefore compensable. There is no indication Kathy had a personal condition that caused her to fall to which her employer appealed.
On appeal, the Court noted that the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act provides for compensation of injury or death by accident arising out of and in the course of employment. The claimant bears the burden of proving the right to compensation. As a general rule, the issue of whether an employee’s injury or death arose out of and in the course of his or her employment is a question of fact to be determined by the Board. An injury arises out of employment when a causal nexus exists between the injury sustained and the duties or services performed by the injured employee. The nexus is established when a reasonably prudent person considers the injury to be born out of a risk incidental to the employment. The risks incidental to employment fall into three categories: (1) risks distinctly associated with employment, (2) risks personal to the claimant, and (3) risks neither distinctly employment nor distinctly personal in character. Risks that fall within categories numbered one and three are generally covered under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act. However, risks personal to the claimant, those caused by a pre-existing illness or condition unrelated to employment are not compensable. With respect to injuries resulting from workplace falls, courts have noted that workplace falls can result from either an employment, personal, or neutral risk, or from a combination thereof. Some falls clearly result from risks personal to the employee; that is, they are caused by a pre-existing illness or condition, unrelated to employment. As a general matter, these “idiopathic” falls are not compensable. In contrast, some falls are “unexplained” in that there is no indication of causation. Most jurisdictions compensate such falls, classifying them as neutral risks.
Based upon the above standards, the Court found that Kathy’s evidence demonstrated that her injuries both did not arise from a personal risk and did arise from a neutral risk. Because the injuries arose from a neutral risk, they were incidental to Kathy’s employment and, therefore, compensable. Accordingly, we affirm the Board’s decision in favor of Kathy.
APlus Home Health Care v. Miecznikowski, 983 N.E.2d 140 (Ind.App. 2012).