The workers’ compensation system in Ohio is intended to cover medical expenses and lost wages when you're injured on the job or become ill due to workplace conditions.
The key to a successful workers’ compensation claim is connecting the illness or injury directly to your work duties.
For example, if you slip on the factory floor at the Honda plant and break your hip, your injury should be covered. If you developed occupational asthma after years of breathing in organic dust at the Anheuser Busch Brewery, your illness should be covered.
However, if you have a heart attack or stroke at work, you'll have a much more difficult time proving you should qualify for workers’ comp benefits.
What You Need to Prove
Merely having a heart attack or stroke at work isn't enough to qualify for workers’ comp. In fact, in Ohio, it’s not even enough to show that your heart attack was caused by general workplace stress or exertion. If your job is stressful or physically demanding and you have a heart attack while performing a normal task, you won't be eligible for workers’ comp.
However, if something unusual happens— you are attacked by a customer and later have a heart attack, or you're forced to work in extreme heat and suffer a stroke—you may have a good case for compensation.
When a Heart Attack or Stroke May be Covered
While heart attacks and strokes can be unexpected events with little warning, the causes may have been building for many years. People with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity—particularly those who are also smokers—are at high risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.
If a worker with any of these conditions happens to have a heart attack or stroke at work, there's no reason workers’ comp would cover his illness. However, even with these pre-existing conditions, if an unusually stressful or strenuous situation arises at work and an individual has a heart attack or stroke, he may be covered.
These medical emergencies can be caused by any of the following:
- Stress or fright. For a person who already has high blood pressure or partially-blocked arteries, a sudden panic or an unusually stressful situation can trigger a burst of adrenaline and increased heart rate that could cause a heart attack or stroke. A vehicle accident, fall, violent assault, aggressive holiday shoppers, or an unexpected deadline could be the factor that caused the heart attack or stroke.
- Exertion. If a worker who usually's sedentary is asked to perform a strenuous task, such as moving boxes of paper or fixing a flat tire, the physical exertion could cause a heart attack or stroke that should be covered by workers’ comp.
- Extreme heat or cold. When working in extreme heat, heart rates increase at a faster pace than under ordinary conditions. In the bitter cold, a laborer’s heart is forced to pump harder to keep the body warm. Both of these situations could bring on a heart attack or stroke in a person who's already pre-disposed.
Again, the key in Ohio is the work activity or situation that caused the heart attack or stroke is not part of the worker’s ordinary duty. This distinction may not be easy to make, and you'll likely get pushback as you try to make your case.
You Will Need an Attorney to Argue Your Case
I’ll be straight with you—it’s very tough to get a heart attack or stroke covered by workers’ comp in Ohio, but it’s not impossible.
If you think unusual circumstances led to your workplace heart attack or stroke—or the fatal heart attack or stroke of a loved one—contact me for more information. I won't make promises I can’t keep, but I'll take your case if I think I can help.
In the meantime, to learn more about workers’ compensation in Ohio, download my free guidebook. You'll find answers to many of your questions in it, and I'm happy to answer the rest!