Not every injury that occurs at work or on the clock is considered a work injury under Illinois workers’ compensation law. It might not seem right that that’s the case, but that’s the law. It tends to make sense when you consider individual examples, although there definitely are cases where claims are denied and we firmly believe it was the wrong call. It all comes down to whether the injury was caused by your job.
Illinois law says that injuries that arise out of and in the course of one’s employment are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, which means those workers are entitled to benefits. Injuries that fall outside of that category are not. We should point out that there are exceptions and not every case is easy to predict. The facts and circumstances surrounding each individual injury matter a lot in determining whether there is a valid claim for benefits.
Heart attack cases can go either way. Two injuries that look very similar on the surface can end up with opposite outcomes. In order to win your Illinois workers’ compensation case, you have to point to something about your job that increased your risk of the injury you received. If you climb a ladder and fall, it’s pretty obvious that climbing a ladder increased your risk of falling from one. If you are simply bending down to tie your shoe when you experience back pain, it wouldn’t appear that your job contributed to your injury or put you at higher risk.
We get a good number of calls about heart attacks on the job, with the callers wondering whether they have a claim. A fairly common example is a worker who has been doing extreme physical labor in rough conditions – outside in extremely hot weather, for example. The worker ends their work day, and later has a heart attack at home. They’re off the clock and nowhere near work. Still, we see this as a valid claim.
In that example, the extreme nature of the job no doubt puts a strain on the body, creating an increased risk for heart attack. Certainly more of a risk than someone simply out for a walk in hot weather. Other increased risks would be long hours, lifting extremely heavy loads, etc. Also, we are assuming the heart attack happened within a short time after being exposed to the conditions. A heart attack a week later would be a different story and much harder to prove as work-related.
Compare that to an employee who works a desk job and has a heart attack while filling out some paperwork. Even if that person is working long hours, there is really nothing about his desk job that is putting extra strain on his heart. Or at least not any more strain that what an average person experiences daily at work. A case like this would probably be denied by the insurance company and we would have a hard time arguing otherwise.
We give these examples to help explain the law, but a few additional facts could change the outcome in either. Never assume that you don’t have a valid claim without checking with an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney.