Does any injury arise out of employment in Minnesota simply because an employee has pain at work? The answer is – it depends.
Minnesota Workers’ Compensation law recognizes that employers take their employees as they get them. This means, employers must recognize that not every employee arrives in perfect physical condition with no prior injuries or conditions. However, in order for an employee’s renewed onset of symptoms while at work to be considered compensable (that is, the employer’s responsibility), the employee’s work activities must be a substantial contributing cause of the onset of those symptoms. This can be by way of a permanent or temporary aggravation of a preexisting condition or an entirely new injury event. While injuries can be both specific or the result of repetitive trauma with a resulting cumulative event, the key in any claimed injury is determining whether the employee’s work activities truly caused the “injury” or whether the employee’s symptoms are merely an ongoing manifestation of a preexisting condition.
Minnesota case law has long debated the role of idiopathic injuries in the context of whether an injury truly arises out of and in the course and scope of employment. While previous court leanings favored the concept that if the injury happened at work it must be work related, recent court decisions have recognized that this is a much more complex question. An employee must show – with equal consideration — that the injury both arose out of the employee’s work activities as well as within the scope of his or her current employment. This essentially challenges the concept that not every event or flare-up of symptoms on the employer’s premises is necessarily work-related.
Beyond the Slip and Fall
Employers and insurers should pay particular attention to claims involving falls on a hard flat surface without any precipitating hazard or factor unique to the work environment. Injuries on staircases without any unique hazard or missing safety feature and injuries caused by actions of the employee that clearly violate strict company protocol or safe ingress or egress from the employer should be carefully reviewed. The goal? To prevent employees from taking advantage of the employer by filing a worker’s compensation claim otherwise personal to them.
The attorneys at Hansen Dordell have decades of experience in representing our employer clients on matters related to the ever-changing landscape of workers’ compensation challenges. Employers and insurers are encouraged to contact our attorneys to address specific challenges related to primary liability issues.