Heart attacks are unexpected and frightening events. They can happen anywhere – even at your workplace.
When they occur on the job in Florida, it’s natural to wonder if you’re covered under workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp exists to help workers who get injured or sick because of their jobs.
But the question is, does it apply if you have a heart attack at work?
This is a critical topic for many Floridians, as heart conditions remain one of the leading health concerns in the U.S. Did you know that every year, many people experience heart attacks while they’re on the clock?
Determining your rights and options in this situation can be challenging. Our experienced Florida workers’ comp lawyers at Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A. are here to help. We’re here to guide you through the intricacies of Florida’s workers’ comp laws and help determine if you’re eligible for benefits.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation in Florida
Workers’ compensation is a safety net for employees. It is a type of insurance that employers have to help cover medical bills and lost wages if an employee gets hurt or sick because of their job.
Who Does It Cover?
Almost every worker in Florida is under the umbrella of workers’ comp. You’re likely covered whether you’re full-time, part-time, or even a temporary worker. This means that you can seek benefits if something happens to you because of your job.
The AOE/COE Standard Explained
There’s an essential rule in Florida’s workers’ comp world called the “arising out of employment and occurring in the course of employment,” or AOE/COE. This rule means that to qualify for workers’ comp, the injury or illness must happen because of and while doing your job.
For heart attacks, this can get a bit tricky. Was the heart attack truly because of the job, or was it something that would’ve happened anyway? Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A. can help make sense of this and guide you.
When Does Workers’ Comp Cover Heart Attacks?
If you have a heart attack at work, the first step is to seek medical attention. Usually, a co-worker or manager will call for emergency services on your behalf.
However, as you recover, you may wonder – will workers’ comp cover the event?
Occupational Disease vs. Accidental Injury: What’s the Difference?
Workers’ comp has two main types of incidents: “occupational diseases” and “accidental injuries.” An occupational disease is a condition that develops over time due to the nature of your job. Think of conditions like a carpal tunnel from repetitive tasks.
On the other hand, accidental injuries are sudden events, like tripping over a wire. Heart attacks can be a gray area. They might happen suddenly but could result from long-term job stress or activities.
Determining if Your Heart Attack is Work-Related
When deciding if a heart attack is linked to work, several factors come into play:
- Pre-existing Conditions: If you had heart issues before, they would examine whether your job worsened or if the attack would have happened regardless of where you were.
- Intensity of Activity: Did you do something strenuous during the heart attack? Or maybe you were under intense job-related stress?
- Workplace Conditions: Let’s say you work in a high-heat environment, and there’s evidence that this contributed to the heart attack. This will be considered.
- Timing of Symptoms: Did you start feeling chest pain or other symptoms while working, or did they begin after you left? The closer the timing of the onset of symptoms to the work activity or conditions, the more likely it could be seen as work-related.
Heart attacks and workers’ comp can be complicated. But at Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A., we’re equipped to help Floridians navigate these challenges, ensuring they understand their rights and the potential for compensation.
The Claim Process After a Heart Attack at Work
After a heart attack, it is essential to take the right steps. This can help you protect your right to compensation.
Notify and Seek Medical Help
If you’ve had a heart attack at work, the first thing you should do is get medical attention right away. Your health is paramount. Once you’re stable, informing your employer about the incident is crucial. In Florida, timely notification can make all the difference in your claim.
Building Your Case
You must gather evidence related to the incident to help strengthen your claim. Some of the evidence to acquire includes:
- Medical Records: These are foundational. They’ll show the nature of your heart attack and any potential link to job activities or stress.
- Eyewitness Accounts: If colleagues saw what happened, their testimonies could support your claim. Did they notice you were under intense stress or engaged in a physically demanding task?
- Expert Opinions: Sometimes, a medical expert’s perspective can be invaluable, especially in cases where the link between the job and the heart attack isn’t clear-cut.
One of the biggest challenges is proving your heart attack is linked to your job. This isn’t always straightforward. For example, were other factors that played a role in the incident, such as genetics or lifestyle? It is crucial to understand and prepare for these challenges. It is something your attorney can help with.
Appealing a Denied Claim
Not all claims get approved the first time around. If yours is denied, don’t lose hope. There’s an appeals process in place. Here’s where having an experienced attorney is invaluable. This can be confusing, so talk to an attorney from Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A.
Benefits Potentially Available to You
When you file a workers’ compensation claim, you may be entitled to several benefits, including the following:
- Medical Expenses: Workers’ comp is designed to cover the medical bills related to your work-related heart attack. This means doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, and other necessary treatments are typically covered.
- Lost Wages: If you’ve had to miss work because of your heart attack, workers’ comp can help compensate you for those lost earnings, ensuring you’re not left in a financial bind.
- Rehabilitation Costs: Some heart attacks require extended rehab and physical therapy. Workers’ comp understands this and offers coverage for these necessary treatments.
- Permanent Impairment Benefits: In cases where the heart attack leads to lasting health issues or impairments, additional benefits may be available to support you.
Understanding Your Rights to Workers’ Compensation Benefits After a Heart Attack
Heart attacks are serious, life-changing events. It brings about a unique set of challenges and questions when they happen at work.
Every worker in Florida should be aware of their rights regarding workers’ compensation, especially given the intricacies surrounding heart attacks. These claims can be complex, with various factors and evidence to consider.
But remember, you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. If you believe your job influenced or caused your heart attack, seeking a Florida workers’ compensation attorney is crucial. Sternberg | Forsythe, P.A. stands ready to assist, ensuring you understand your rights and can pursue the benefits you deserve.