Injured skydiving pilot ineligible for comp

An Illinois appeals court, reversing a lower-court decision, ruled that a woman injured while piloting a skydiving plane was ineligible to collect workers compensation benefits because she was flying on a volunteer basis at the time to get flight time experience.

The Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, Workers’ Compensation Commission Division, on Monday overturned a Henry County Circuit Court decision allowing Hanna Larson to collect comp benefits after she was injured June 29, 2014, in a crash landing.

Ms. Larson suffered blunt-force trauma to her face and underwent two reconstructive nasal surgeries as a result of the accident.

An arbitrator determined Ms. Larson was an employee of Quad City Skydiving Center Inc., the owner of the plane, allowing her to collect comp benefits. The company appealed that decision to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, which reversed it, finding that Ms. Larson failed to prove she was an employee.

The trial judge reversed the commission’s decision, finding Ms. Larson proved she had a contract for hire with the business at the time of the accident.

In Monday’s decision, the appellate court said the trial court was wrong to conclude Ms. Larson was an employee, because she acknowledged she was volunteering to pilot the plane as it gave her the opportunity to log flight hours for free.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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