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Is my heart attack or stroke work related?

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Whether or not you can obtain workers compensation for a heart attack or stroke depends on whether work is a significant contributing factor to the injury. This is the test regardless of whether you suffer the heart attack or stroke at work or in your leisure time.

In determining whether a worker’s employment was a significant contributing factor to an injury, the following must be taken into account —

  1. the duration of the worker’s current employment
  2. the nature of the work performed
  3. the particular tasks of the employment
  4. the probable development of the injury occurring if that employment had not taken place
  5. the existence of any hereditary risks
  6. the lifestyle of the worker
  7. the activities of the worker outside the workplace.

Risk factors such as a history of smoking or a family history of heart disease and/or stroke are considered. However, even where these risk factors are identified work can still be deemed to be a significant contributing factor.

Obviously, if the heart attack happens at work following strenuous activity the connection is clear. However, if the heart attack occurs at home you should still consider whether work has been an underlying cause.

In one interesting case, a Magistrate found that a person’s heart attack which occurred whilst skiing on 7 July 2011 occurred as a result of a compensable injury suffered by the person on 13 August 2007 and that therefore the Workcover Agent was liable to pay compensation in relation to the heart attack. It was clear that the immediate cause of the heart attack was the physical exertion due to skiing but that was not the underlying cause. It was found that the worker had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with major depression and generalised anxiety due to work and this condition had been ongoing. The medical evidence supported that the stress that followed the work incident was a significant contributing factor to the heart attack. One medical witness said that stress up to 12 months prior to the heart attack could be regarded as contributing to the heart attack. Cameron Bishop v Victorian Workcover Authority [2015] VMC 34 (16 September 2015)

The above case shows the importance of obtaining legal advice as your lawyer can then obtain expert medico-legal reports from medical examiners who understand the many different factors which can contribute to heart attacks.

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