Under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, benefits are available to make up for lost wages and to pay for medical care for any work-related injury. This is as true for heart attacks as it is for broken bones. In fact, pursuing a heart attack claim is not much different from pursuing a claim for any other type of work-related injury. As with any case, a doctor’s opinion that the injury is work related will be an essential part of proving the case.
Types of Heart Attacks
Under Massachusetts laws, an injury is work-related if it is caused by some aspect of employment. There are essentially four categories of work-related heart attacks for which workers’ compensation benefits may be available.
Heart Attacks Caused by Environmental Factors
The first type of heart attack involves some environmental aspect of the workplace that causes cardio-vascular deterioration (that eventually leads to a heart attack). For example, exposure to certain hazardous chemicals may result in respiratory disease, which, in turn, places extra strain on the heart. This extra strain can eventually cause a heart attack. Another example would be from exposure to heat, which can significantly increase the likelihood of a heart attack, even in otherwise healthy individuals.
Heart Attacks Caused by Physical Work Activity
The second type of work-related heart attack is precipitated by some physical work activity, usually, but not necessarily, of a heavy physical nature. An example would be the case where a worker lifts some sort of heavy object and the physical exertion results in a heart attack. Work-related heart attacks can also occur following prolonged activity, such as when a worker performs a physically demanding job for hours at a time. Work-related heart attacks can also be caused simply by working for many hours at a time, such as when a worker works two shifts in a row or stays up all night to finish a job. In either case, the work activity that causes the heart attack does not necessarily need to be a heavy, physical activity. Indeed, a heart attack can be caused following a change in blood pressure related to a change in posture or simply by going from one work activity to the next.
Heart Attacks Caused by Emotional Factors
The third type of heart attack is induced by emotional stress or excitement, including worry, fear, surprise, or anxiety. For example, a heart attack that occurs after a worker witnesses a tragic event or is yelled at by a superior may be compensable under the law. However, if a heart attack is triggered by an emotional event rather than a physical event, different rules apply. Heart attacks caused by emotional events will only be compensated if the event in question is unrelated to common, good-faith issues of work performance, scheduling, and things of that nature.
Heart Attacks Caused by Medical Treatment
The fourth type of heart attack is precipitated by medical treatment or medication that the injured worker is receiving for a work-related injury. For example, if a patient sustains a heart attack caused by stress from undergoing an MRI and being in a tight space, the heart attack will be considered related to the work injury. In fact, any injury arising out of medical treatment for a work-related injury will generally be compensated as part of the original work injury.
Pre-existing Risk Factors
No matter what type of heart attack might be involved in a particular case, the insurance company will usually make an issue out of the injured worker’s prior health history. The fact that a worker had pre-existing heart disease such as high blood pressure or had certain risk factors such as a history of smoking or obesity does not necessarily mean workers’ compensation benefits cannot be awarded for a heart attack. However, workers’ compensation insurance companies will use these factors against the injured worker to suggest that the heart attack was not caused by work. Only a doctor can say for sure, and the truth is that heart attacks are usually caused by more than one factor. As long as some aspect of employment is a factor, a workers’ compensation attorney can answer your questions and provide advice as to whether you may be entitled compensation.
Work-Related Heart Attacks That Occur Outside the Workplace
In a number of cases in Massachusetts, workers’ compensation benefits have been awarded where the heart attack occurs outside of the workplace during non-work hours, sometimes even several days after the employee last worked. In these cases, proof that the heart attack was work-related usually depends on proving that cardiac symptoms began while at work and continued to the point where the heart attack occurred at home. Likewise, benefits have been awarded where the employee is at home on a day off and receives a stress-inducing phone call from his or her employer which results in a heart attack.
Regardless of the type of work you do and what you may hear from the insurance company, only your lawyer and your doctor can give you any meaningful advice as to whether your heart attack should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Medical bills from a heart attack can be significant and the time one misses from work while recovering from a heart attack can be extensive. Workers’ compensation benefits are regularly awarded for work-related heart attacks under Massachusetts law. If you suspect that you or a family member had a work-related heart attack, even if there were prior heart problems, you need to contact a workers’ compensation attorney today.
If you or a loved one has suffered a work-related heart attack, contact Keches Law Group at 617-898-0808 or online for a free consultation today. One of our experienced attorneys can come to you if you are unable to come to one of our office locations, and we will begin the process of getting you compensation for your lost wages right away.