Is a Heart Attack That Occurs At Work a Compensable Injury Under the WC Act?

Date: June 16, 2008

Matt and his lovely wife, Kitty, had been married for 30 years. Kitty would always prepare Matt\’s lunch which consisted of a kielbasa sandwich, and chocolate Tasty Kakes. Matt worked at a local lumber yard as a jack-of-all-trades.

On April 22nd, Kitty got a call from the employer that Matt had had a serious heart attack while at work. Matt was taken directly by ambulance to the hospital but, unfortunately, he expired before Kitty arrived at the hospital. Matt and Kitty had been able to save very little and whatever extra money they had, they usually gave to their children. Kitty was able to get Social Security but sought advice as to whether or not she would be able to collect workers\’ compensation death benefits in her capacity as the widow of Matt.

Question: Is Kitty entitled to workers\’ compensation benefits?

Answer: The mere fact that Matt had his heart attack while at work does not establish a compensable workers\’ compensation claim. Kitty, through her attorney, would have to show that Matt\’s work in some way caused Matt\’s heart attack. If this could be done at all, it would have to be through showing the fact that Matt was performing heavy duty activity at some time prior to the fatal attack. Kitty would also have to have a doctor verify that Matt\’s activity was either a precipitating or aggravating cause of Matt\’s underlying cardiac condition, thus, triggering the heart attack.

In this particular case, Matt\’s heart attack was purely coincidental to the fact that he was at work and really had no relationship to the activities Matt was doing while Matt was at work. Unfortunately, Kitty will not have a claim for death benefits under the Workers\’ Compensation Act.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.