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Where There Is Smoke, There Is Not Necessarily Fire: South Carolina Worker’s Comp Benefits for Workplace Heart Attacks

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Heart attacks at work are horrifying and all too often fatal. Affected employees and their families need workers’ compensation benefits the most, to pay for sky-high hospital bills and to stay afloat financially in the wake of a long recovery or a breadwinner’s passing. But many are shocked to discover while most injuries at work are automatically covered by workers’ compensation, that’s just not the case with heart attacks on the job in South Carolina.

These are the basic rules determining whether an on-the-job heart attack is covered:

General Rule

Generally, workers’ compensation covers a heart attack only if it is caused by unexpected strain or overexertion or unusual, extraordinary employment conditions.

Thus, if an employee has a heart attack doing his normal duties, workers’ comp provides no help. That generally includes actions stressful for any employee under the right circumstances, like disciplinary actions, evaluations, demotions, and firings. To be covered, these personnel actions must be proven to be carried out in an unusual, extraordinary way.

If the employee can prove unusual strain or extraordinary conditions, a key defense could be that the employee had risk factors for heart disease or prior heart treatment. A skilled lawyer may be able to help prove your work situation worsened your heart condition, causing the heart attack. If work makes a prior condition worse, an employee may be eligible to get workers’ compensation benefits.

The Exceptions: Weather, Firefighters, and Police

There are three exceptions to the general rule:

  • Injuries sustained from extreme heat or cold exposure. The heart attack must be caused by an extreme level of heat or cold, likely to produce sunstroke or freezing.
  • Firefighter injury caused by heart disease is presumed to be covered by workers’ compensation under the right conditions. To qualify for the presumption, the firefighter must be under 37 when hired and pass a physical at hiring or by July 21, 2012. The physical exam must have been performed by a doctor who makes a written report showing no evidence of any heart condition. The injury must develop while fighting a fire or within 24 hours from the last date of service in the activity.
  • Heart-related incidents for police are presumed covered under the right conditions. To qualify, at hiring the policeman must be under 37 and pass a physical by a doctor who makes a written report including a coronary artery disease risk assessment showing no evidence of heart injury or impairment. Officers deemed high risk for heart problems must undergo additional tests at their own expense to discover coronary artery disease. The injury must occur while the officer is actively engaged in, or within 24 hours from the date of, an incident involving unusual or extraordinary physical exertion.

When an employee suffers an on-the-job heart attack in Spartanburg, the need for benefits is often desperate. If this happens to you or a family member, you owe it to yourself to speak with an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer. Your attorney can help you figure out if the injury qualifies for benefits that could cover medical treatment at no cost to you and save your financial stability. In these tough cases where the stakes can be high for the employee and his family, folks need a professional who knows the law to help develop the detailed evidence necessary to get benefits.

If you need help claiming South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits for a heart attack—either for you or for a loved one—feel free to contact us to see if we can build a case to protect your rights and get you benefits. You can call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841, email, or start a live chat right from where you are. If you are too sick to come to us, we can come to you.

 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.
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