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Fatal Heart Attack Highlights Workers’ Comp Struggles

New York City Workers' CompensationWorkers across all professions in New York should be entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits when they sustain work-related injuries or develop work-related illnesses. If an injury or work-related illness happens, it is up to employees to be able to prove the injury occurred due to job duties. If a work accident or a work-related illnesses caused a death, the burden falls on surviving family members to prove they are entitled to workers' compensation death benefits.

Sometimes, showing an injury happened due to a job is relatively easy. For example, an injured worker or the family of a deceased employee can point to an incident at work which led to the accident or illness. In other situations, however, proving an injury resulted from a work incident can be hard because there may be multiple causes. One such example occurs when an employee sustains a heart attack at work.

One worker in New York recently experienced an on-the-job death which gave rise to questions about whether his widow should be entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits.  The death happened due to a heart attack, according to Safety News Alert.

The incident occurred at Albany airport, where the man worked as a process operator at a facility which provides glycol. Glycol is essential to de-icing planes and the facility served an essential function in allowing planes to take off in the cold weather. Unfortunately, a valve broke on a December day and the process operator was called in to try to resolve the problem.

The process operator and his co-worker were facing substantial pressure to get the broken valve issue resolved quickly.  The solution which was proposed was for more insulation to be added. The process manager had to go and get the insulation, which involved walking outdoors in freezing temperatures across snow covered ground.  The process operator did this. He subsequently suffered a heart attack on the job and died without regaining consciousness.

An expert in diagnostic cardiology asserted that the man's heart attack was likely brought on, at least in part, by the stress of his job and by the exposure to the cold. The widow of the man applied for workers' compensation death benefits but was initially denied. However, an appeal resulted in a successful benefits claim.

Inspired by the testimony of the cardiologist expert, a workers' compensation administrative law judge awarded benefits and the workers' compensation board agreed. That decision was even appealed to the New York appeals court, but the widow's benefits claim was ultimately successful.