Is a Heart Attack Considered a Work Injury in Minnesota?

Is a Heart Attack Considered a Work Injury in Minnesota?

Heart Attack

The idea that being stressed can cause a heart attack is widely held, especially by those with experiences of demanding jobs and/or bosses. What is even more widely-accepted is the idea that there are in fact jobs which can be highly stressful at times—it’s not hard to find people with personal experience of this! So, if you have a heart attack and you believe it was caused by stress you were experiencing at work, is that an on-the-job injury for which you can claim workers’ compensation? The answer is generally yes, but the exact answer depends on the type of work you do.

For police officers, firemen, and similar occupations:

Workers’ compensation laws are a little different for those employed as police officers, firemen, conservation officers, correctional officers, and a few related jobs, not only *can* a heart attack be work-related, it is actually legally presumed to be work-related in certain circumstances. For that presumption to apply, the worker must have had a pre-employment physical exam which showed no evidence of coronary disease.

Even if the presumption that your heart attack was work-related does apply, however, your employer can still try to rebut that presumption and not pay you workers’ compensation benefits. For example, they might argue that your particular employment duties were significantly less stressful than those of others in your occupation, or they might present evidence of something other than your job that can be shown to have caused your heart attack (death of a loved-one, non-work related health issues). Note that it is not enough for your employer to present testimony from medical experts saying that heart disease is not an occupational disease of, for example, policemen, because, in enacting the law creating the presumption discussed above, the state legislature has in effect already made the determination that it is.

For other workers:

For people who do not work in one of the occupations listed above, it is still possible to make a workers’ compensation claim for a heart attack based on work stress. The court will consider two things: (1) whether the stress was extreme or beyond ordinary in some way, such that it is different from the regular day-to-day stress to which all employees are exposed, and (2) whether there is sufficient medical evidence to support the conclusion that mental stress and strain were in fact medically related to your heart attack. This means that expert testimony, perhaps from your treating physician or from an expert cardiologist, will be key. Keep in mind that in order to receive Minnesota workers’ compensation, there is no requirement that work-related stress be the sole cause of the heart attack; it is enough if the stress is a substantial contributing factor.