Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. In general, both Kansas and Missouri do not provide coverage for a heart attack suffered at work unless it can be proven that the work environment or work activities directly caused the heart attack. You can rest assured that your employer and their insurer will fight your claim for coverage for a heart attack, so you do not want to take this on alone. It would be a mistake to attempt a claim for a heart attack without an experienced workers’ comp law firm on your side.
The Law in Kansas
Kansas workers’ compensation law states, “The law does not provide compensation for coronary or coronary artery disease unless it is shown that the exertion of the work that caused the injury was beyond that required by the employee’s usual job duties. Another exception is vascular injury caused by extreme heat.” In other words, if it is proven that that the employee was required to exert herself in some work-related task beyond what her normal job description called for and she suffered a heart attack, her injuries would be covered under workers’ comp. However, if she was predisposed to a heart attack due to health conditions unrelated to her job duties and happened to have a heart attack while at work, she would not be covered by workers’ comp.
The Law in Missouri
Under Missouri law, “An injury resulting directly or indirectly from idiopathic causes is not compensable.” Idiopathic causes are defined as “conditions … peculiar to the individual; innate.” In order for the Missouri board of workers’ comp to deny a claim for a heart attack, it must provide evidence to prove that “the event results from some cause personal to the individual, such as a physical defect or disease.” If an employee’s heart attack is caused by a congenital disorder, for example, it would not be compensable under workers’ comp, but, like in Kansas, if it can be shown that work conditions or exposures contributed to the heart attack, then it may be covered. Again, you will need a law firm with experience in obtaining evidence and medical records in order to make your claim.
What Can Cause Heart Attacks at Work
No matter where you work, the key to obtaining workers’ comp for a heart attack is proving a connection between the heart attack and the work environment. If a person is suffering from coronary heart disease and has a heart attack at work, this is not attributable to a workplace factor. However, a coronary artery spasm can be caused by non-disease-related factors, including factors present in many work environments. Some major causes of coronary artery spasm include:
- Stress. Stressful situations can increase blood pressure and expose your body to elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can lead to a heart attack. High-pressure jobs, tight deadlines, and unforgiving supervisors can all lead to high levels of workplace stress.
- Exertion. If you are not used to regular aerobic exercise, sudden and strenuous physical exertion can lead to a heart attack. Moving heavy materials, performing physical tasks in a hurry, or being suddenly frightened or surprised can all cause a heart attack at work.
- Exposure to extreme heat or cold. Extreme cold temperatures can constrict blood vessels, which can prevent blood flow to the heart and result in a heart attack. Likewise, working in extreme heat causes extra work for the heart, as well as loss of sodium and potassium through sweat, and an increase in stress hormones. This can lead to heat stroke and heart attack in construction workers, road crews, and landscapers.
- Occupational exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon disulfide, nitroglycerin, and carbon monoxide are a few of the specific toxins encountered occupationally that are known to affect the heart. Of these, carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust is the most common occupational exposure. If you are exposed to these toxins on a regular basis and suffered a heart attack—at work or at home—you may be able to prove that the workplace exposure led to the heart attack, in which case, your heart attack would be covered under workers’ comp.
An Experienced Workers’ Comp Attorney Can Help
If you suffered a heart attack at work, you will probably be told by your employer that it is not covered by workers’ comp. However, it is worth contacting our office for a review of your case before you give up on getting the benefits you may be entitled to. Fill out the form on this page and we will be in touch shortly.