When people think of injuries that could occur at work, they may picture common accidents such as falling off a ladder, being hit by an object or forklift, or back strain from lifting something too heavy. Rarely would they consider the dangers of developing an occupational illness, such as having a heart attack caused by work.
However, many workers are under stress at their jobs with too many duties to perform. Others are asked to lift or do more than they are able. As a result, people can have a heart attack at work. Are they entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?
When Heart Attacks Are Covered Under New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Laws
The fact that a heart attack occurs at work does not necessarily mean that it’s covered under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws. The heart attack must be work-related—which requires more proof than that it happened while the employee was working.
New Jersey’s workers’ compensation statute governs when a person can receive benefits. It outlines that the worker or his survivors must prove that injury or death was caused by “the work effort or strain involving a substantial condition, event or happening in excess of the wear and tear of the claimant’s daily living” and that the cause of the cardiac arrest was materially job-related.
Factors that help determine whether the heart attack can be linked to work include:
- If the individual engaged in intense work effort for a period of time when the heart attack occurred.
- How much time elapsed since the worker performed the intense work and began experiencing symptoms.
- How much more strenuous the job-related activity was for the employee compared to other normal activities outside of work.
Many different work-related activities can cause a person to experience cardiac arrest. Some of these include the following:
- An automobile accident that occurred while the person was working.
- A workplace accident where the employee was electrocuted.
- Threats from or bullying by a co-worker or supervisor that causes someone to be afraid to go to work.
- Unrealistic production expectations or the requirement that an employee work excessive overtime.
- Sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or rape at work.
- An employee required to carry objects that are too heavy or having a position that’s too physically demanding.
New Jersey Cases That Shed Light on When a Worker Can Receive Workers’ Compensation
New Jersey judges have decided a number of cases involving workers trying to obtain workers’ compensation benefits after having a heart attack. These decisions shed light on when workers are entitled to or are denied benefits:
- The estate of a mill operator was awarded benefits after plaintiff’s legal team proved that the millworker’s overtime work contributed to his heart attack and death—even though he had preexisting unstable angina.
- An equipment operator who worked excessive overtime was able to show that extreme physical work after several hours of work contributed to his cardiac arrest and permanent disability, entitling him to workers’ compensation benefits.
- An employee who was required to carry up to 25 bags of trash weighing 50 pounds down six flights of steps and then lift them into a trash hopper established that his heart attack was caused by his arduous work that was well beyond what he did in his leisure time. He was awarded workers’ compensation benefits.
- An employee who telecommuted from home had a heart attack and died after working on a project with a looming deadline. The project required her to push late into the night and into the early morning of her death. Her doctor determined that sitting at her desk for long periods of time contributed to her cardiac arrest. However, the court ruled that sitting in one position for long periods of time did not meet the statute’s requirements and that she could stand, walk, and take breaks while on the job. Her survivors did not receive a settlement.
If You Suffered a Heart Attack at Work, You Need an Experienced Attorney at Your Side
Claims for workers’ compensation benefits for heart attacks at work can be more difficult to prove and win than other types of claims. That’s why you need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who understands how to establish the causal relationship between your cardiac arrest and job. I urge you to call our firm at 877-360-0183 to schedule a free consultation to learn how I can help you fight for the benefits you deserve.