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Is a Heart Attack at Work Covered by Workers’ Comp?

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 350,000 individuals lose their lives due to cardiac arrest each year in the United States. And about 805,000 Americans will experience a heart attack annually. A heart attack at work can mean several days in the hospital and with that, skyrocketing medical bills.

With the retirement age slowly creeping up and Americans working later in their lives, the risk of cardiovascular disease caused by work-related factors continues to rise. Work is linked to about 10-20% of all cardiovascular disease deaths among the working-age population.

When it becomes clear that the cause of a heart attack is work-related, one may ask the question, “Is a heart attack at work covered by workers’ compensation insurance?”

Heart attack at work, image of middle aged african american man holding left side of chest in pain, Disparti Law Group

In this Article:

Causes of Work-Related Heart Disease

Chronic stress is a well-known cause of heart disease and for many Americans, their job is a major source of stress in their lives. Several work-related factors can exacerbate the level of stress one experiences at work as well as other risk factors related to heart disease.

Work-related factors that can increase the risk of heart disease include:

  • Intense work expectations. Tight deadlines, high-pressure situations, high stakes, lack of sleep.
  • Increased physical activity. Heavy lifting, over-exertion, repetitive movements.
  • Extreme temperatures. Dehydration, constricted blood vessels, and high blood pressure.
  • Unhealthy work conditions. Dust, fumes, chemical exposures, and other pollutants.
  • Lower income. Chronic stress over bills and living expenses due to low wages.
  • Bullying or violence. Harassment, abuse, dangerous conditions, risk of injury.

Jobs most at risk

Jobs where workers may be more at risk for heart disease include:

  • Cargo workers
  • Construction workers
  • Machine operators and assemblers
  • Long-haul drivers
  • Emergency responders
  • Civil engineers

Are Heart Attacks Covered by Workers’ Comp in Illinois?

Workers’ Compensation is a type of insurance that most Illinois employers are required to carry to help cover their workers’ expenses in case of a work injury. Workers’ comp covers both accidental injuries as well as occupational diseases, such as heart disease, that may develop over time.

That means that in Illinois, a heart attack can be covered by workers’ compensation. However, the worker must show that the nature of their job had a direct effect on their health, leading to heart disease and subsequently a heart attack.

How to Prove a Heart Attack is Work-Related

Proving that a heart attack is work-related involves a thorough examination of several critical factors.

Assess Pre-Existing Conditions

Firstly, it is essential to assess any pre-existing heart conditions the individual may have had. Even if there were pre-existing conditions, a worker who experienced a heart attack due to work may still be eligible for workers comp if they can show that the nature of the job worsened their condition. They also must show that the heart attack would not have occurred irrespective of the work environment.

Timing of Symptoms

Symptoms that begin during or immediately after work activities strengthen the argument for a work-related cause of a heart attack. This is why timeliness in reporting symptoms is so crucial. The heart attack and its symptoms should be reported promptly to the employer, ideally occurring during or after a work-related activity. Immediate notification helps establish a direct link and accurately document the incident.

Medical Evidence

Medical evidence is another cornerstone in proving a heart attack is linked to work. Comprehensive medical documentation, including reports and testimonies from healthcare providers, is necessary to establish a direct connection between the heart attack and work-related activities or conditions. This evidence must clearly demonstrate that the heart attack was aggravated or significantly contributed to by work factors, especially in cases involving pre-existing conditions.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing heart attacks at work involves a multifaceted approach to promote employee health and well-being. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Utilize Resources

Several programs exist to help promote occupational health and safety. Employers should utilize these resources as much as possible. For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Total Worker Health Program promotes work designs that prioritize worker safety and improve physical and psychological outcomes.

2. Implement Workplace Programs

Employers should design their own workplace programs to support worker health and well-being. Examples include:

  • Physical activity breaks
  • Healthy food options
  • Health education
  • Physical fitness programs
  • Chemical exposure training

3. Surveillance and Screening

Providing employees with opportunities to keep up with health screenings easily can also be a helpful way to get ahead of any signs of heart disease. Employers can offer paid time off for health screenings, bring health screening programs to the job site to make, or provide portable blood pressure monitors.

Reduce Stressors

Reducing stressors is an effective way to decrease risk factors that may lead to heart disease such as high cortisol levels or high blood pressure. Employers may consider offering workplace surveys to discover factors cause their employees the most stress. Information from this survey can in turn help employers make necessary changes to help improve employee heart health including:

  • Employee autonomy (i.e. ability to choose schedules and control over work tasks)
  • Organizational changes (i.e. reduction in mandatory overtime, hiring more staff, or providing family sick leave)
  • Workplace committees (i.e. committees to help mitigate job stressors)

What to Do if You Had a Heart Attack at Work

If you had a heart attack at work or soon after work, you may consider speaking to an attorney as soon as possible. Unlike some other types of workplace injuries, it can be challenging to prove that work activities caused the injury, especially if you have pre-existing conditions.

A skilled workers’ compensation attorney would know what evidence will best prove that your heart attack would not have occurred if you had not engaged in work activities.

In Illinois, employees who suffer a heart attack at work may be eligible to receive any workers’ comp benefits such as:

  • medical care coverage
  • temporary disability benefits
  • permanent disability benefits
  • vocational rehabilitation training

Tragically, not all heart attack victims survive their condition. Loved ones who lost a loved one due to a heart attack caused by work may be able to receive death benefits through workers’ comp as well.

Contact an experienced attorney at Disparti Law Group so you can focus your time and energy on healing from such a traumatic health event. For a FREE case review, call (312) 600-6000 and find out why thousands say… Larry wins!!

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The Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers is one of the most successful law firms serving the greater Chicago and Tampa areas. As the leader in Injury, Disability, Workers’ Comp, and Employment Law, with more than $1 Billion in recoveries, The Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers has been named One of the Most Influential Law Firms in America by Trial Lawyer Magazine.

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