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

Senior warehouseman having a heart attack at work

Is a heart attack at work covered by workers’ compensation? Illinois law says a heart attack generally qualifies as a work-related injury or illness as long as some aspect of employment contributed to the condition. The state lists heart attacks among the many potential injuries or illnesses that workers might suffer while on the job.

To be covered by workers’ compensation, a heart attack does not necessarily have to happen while you are at work or even during your work hours. If you began suffering symptoms while you were at work, or you received a stress-inducing phone call from your boss after hours, for example, and you later had a heart attack, you may still be entitled to workers’ comp benefits.

Pay Attention to Heart Attack Symptoms

Even a relatively mild heart attack could become life-threatening if left untreated.

Anytime you feel chest pains or other physical signs of a heart attack while you are working, you need to obtain medical care as soon as possible. The symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pain or discomfort in your chest.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Neck, jaw, or back pain or discomfort.
  • Feeling faint, light-headed, or weak.
  • Discomfort or pain in the shoulders or arms.

You also might feel nauseous and tired, but chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack. The pain might be more focused in the center of your chest or more on the left side and last for several minutes. You also might feel the pain coming and going repeatedly and pressure within your chest. Shortness of breath is another common symptom that often accompanies chest pain or discomfort.

If you experience any of the symptoms of a heart attack while at work, you are at risk of dying on the job and should seek immediate medical care. Early treatment can help bring the best outcome to heart attack victims.

When Is a Heart Attack a Work Injury?

Suffering a heart attack during lunch hour, while on break, or even while away from work might be partly or wholly work-related. Whenever an employee suffers a heart attack while working or that is work-related, that counts as a work injury or illness. Heart attacks are considered work-related when an employee is under significant stress or strain, or working in physically taxing conditions that increase heart attack risk.

Your work conditions might cause or contribute to you suffering a heart attack during work or well after you clock out for the day.

If you think you are having a heart attack while at work, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) says you should:

  • Get medical help right away.
  • Notify your employer of your condition as soon as possible.
  • Know your rights and exercise them.
  • File your workers’ compensation claim in a timely manner.

Medical assistance will determine whether you suffered a heart attack, stroke, or some other medical condition. Reporting the heart attack or other ailment to your employer as soon as possible helps to show it is work-related. A heart attack will likely require you to miss a significant amount of work. Your employer is required to notify the IWCC whenever a work-related injury or illness causes a worker to miss more than three days.

Illinois enforces a three-year statute of limitations on filing workers’ compensation claims. You have up to three years from the date or discovery of the incident to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Work Conditions That Can Cause a Heart Attack

Even when you suffer a heart attack while at home, evidence can show that work conditions caused or significantly contributed to it happening. For example, temperature plays a significant role in worker injuries and is a common factor in work-related heart attacks.

Heart attacks could qualify as heat injuries in the workplace and typically become more frequent during the hot summer months. Strokes and other afflictions that commonly occur when workers become overheated while on the job also increase.

Performing highly physical work that causes a lot of exertion and raises your heart rate could lead to a heart attack. Shoveling snow for an extended period of time is a good example. High-stress situations might cause a heart attack – especially if you have a family history of heart conditions.

Suffering a heart attack while working is a good indicator that the ailment is work-related. Your employer or a workers’ compensation insurance adjuster might disagree, but you can challenge a denial of your claim.

It helps to present a well-documented claim to prevent a possible denial. Notify your employer as soon as possible and get medical care right away. Immediate action and early documentation can show the work-related cause and diagnose the heart attack that resulted in the harm.

When filing your report, you will need to explain the circumstances leading to the heart attack. The doctor who treats you or your personal physician could help to confirm that you suffered a heart attack and the work you performed was capable of causing it to happen.

Getting Workers’ Comp for a Pre-Existing Heart Condition

A pre-existing heart condition should not affect your ability to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Illinois law says the workplace aggravation of a pre-existing condition is covered by workers’ compensation

If your claim was denied, you can appeal a denial to the IWCC to overturn the adverse outcome of your claim. An experienced Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer can help protect your right to financial recovery if your claim was wrongfully denied based upon a pre-existing heart condition or another reason. 

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