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Can you claim workers’ comp after a car accident?

When you’re injured on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation to help with lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses. What if you’re injured while driving, though?

Niles, Illinois, police officer Rodney Whiteman asked himself this question when his squad car was struck by another vehicle in 2016. As a police officer, driving a patrol car is part and parcel to Whiteman’s job, and in early 2018 he was awarded roughly $32,000 in workers’ comp.

If you’ve been in a work-related car accident, you’re probably wondering whether you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Here are key times when you should and shouldn’t consider filing.

When driving is your job

Say you’re a cable installer and your van is hit by another motorist in an intersection. Should you consider filing for workers’ compensation? Absolutely.

Just like Officer Whiteman, if you are driving as part of your job, don’t hesitate to speak to a workers’ compensation attorney about filing a claim. In addition to a workers’ compensation claim, you may also have a third-party claim against the driver who caused your accident.

Commuting to and from work

Everyone has to get to work by their start time and head home when they clock out. If you’re in an accident while driving to or from work, the odds are very slim that you will qualify for workers’ compensation. With some narrow exceptions, the Illinois workers’ compensation system doesn’t cover accidents that happen when you are commuting to or from work.

It’s till worth consulting an attorney to be sure, however. Even if a workers’ compensation claim isn’t possible, a lawyer may be able to help you get you a better settlement than what insurance companies will want to pay, including compensation for lost wages.

Traveling for work

If you are required to drive for something work-related – traveling to an off-site meeting or to attend a conference out of town, for example – and you are in an accident, you may still claim workers’ comp. Broadly speaking, if your travel was within the scope of your employment, you are generally eligible for workers’ compensation.

While out on business

Say you are out of town on business and are in an accident while leaving dinner at a restaurant. Should you consider filing for workers’ compensation then? Again, yes. Workers’ comp applies even if you aren’t technically “on the clock” because if you had not been working, you wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. As long as you are doing something “reasonable and foreseeable” (such as driving to and from a restaurant to eat a meal), any accident that occurs while you are out of town on business should be covered by workers’ compensation.

The workers’ compensation system is designed to get you help when you need it most. But remember, to receive any benefits you need to file. Don’t miss out on the compensation you’ll need after an accident.

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