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  • Heart attack Florida

    An employee complained about a slightly hurt his neck and shoulder at work. (He had also complained about similar symptom one month prior and had been sent to a doctor to be checked out. He was checked for heart problems and was given an ok by the doctor) He was off two weeks, because of the second incident to recover. He was then told that he could come back on for light duty. We asked him to come in and work. He did not show up, because he did not want to work light duty. Two days later he suffered a heart attack and was placed in the hospital. He continued to claim workman’s com. He had severe blockage and family history of heart problems. His first injury was probably also related to his heart and not an injury. His symptoms were classis heart symptoms. He is a delivery driver and has only been with the company a short time. He has now been re-released for light duty, but refuses to come in for work. He does not want to do the light duty that we have available for him. He has also decided to sue workman’s com for more money. Should a heart attack even be considered as workman’s comp? His job is not stressful, but it does require lifting. What can we do about him refusing to come in for light duty? Can we fire him for refusing to come in for light duty after being released for it?

  • #2
    He has also decided to sue workman’s com for more money. He can't "sue" your WC carrier. If he disputes any decisions they've made, he can file for a hearing with your State's WC Division.

    Should a heart attack even be considered as workman’s comp? Almost certainly, no. Just because he had some symptoms ON the job does not mean his heart attack was caused by the job. It's far, far more likely that his heart attack was caused by his lifestyle and/or a genetic predisposition to heart problems.

    What can we do about him refusing to come in for light duty? You can send him a certified letter stating that you have light duty work available within his doctor's restrictions and if he does not report to work by [date], you will assume he is resigning his employment.

    Can we fire him for refusing to come in for light duty after being released for it? Yes you can but I'd advise you to consult with an employment law attorney first, just to be sure all your legal bases are covered.

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    • #3
      I'll only add one more thing. If he's refusing to come in for light duty make sure you notify the WC carrier. They will deny him temporary benefits if light duty is available and he refuses.

      OH, one more thing (sorry), does he qualify for FMLA? While that doesn't change the fact that it's wc and he won't be paid by the carrier, if he qualifies for FMLA he would still get his 12 weeks of job protection.

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      • #4
        If he's refusing to come in for light duty make sure you notify the WC carrier. They will deny him temporary benefits if light duty is available and he refuses. Good point; yes, the OP should keep their WC carrier advised of any pertinent developments regarding his status and WC claim. I'd sure hope they're not paying TTD benefits though. If they accepted liability for the initial neck and shoulder pain, I would certainly expect they cut off TTD benefits the first time he refused to return to light duty before he had the heart attack.

        He is a delivery driver and has only been with the company a short time. Doesn't sound like he qualifies for FMLA but if he does, TM1, you will need to extend 12 weeks of leave time. The FMLA specifies that you cannot require an employee to return to work on a light duty position or to other than the employee's regular job. (Worker's Comp statutes have no such requirements though; you can require an employee to come in to clean the bathrooms if it's within his/her medical restrictions.)

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        • #5
          Has this claim been filed with the carrier? Has it been accepted? I'd be on the phone with my carrier about this one pronto.

          Every state is different but in yours, the accident/illness/injury must be more than 50% attributable to work. You(read the carrier) are going to need the medical reports to determine that. Heart attacks are rarely WC.

          Document when light duty was offered, by whom, by what method, what was said, and what his response was. When someone declines, I prefer to follow up with a memo via mail, with a copy to file, that reiterates that the offer was made and declined.
          I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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          • #6
            The claim was filed with the carrier for the original claim as a neck injury. The problems is that after he was approved for light duty, the first time, he did not show up and the heart attack happened within 3-4 days. Workman’s comp continued to pay for his time off during and after the heart attack. They did not pay for the hospital bills. The have advised us on writing a letter, and we have sent it to the employee. The letter stated that if he did not report to work to for light duty that we would assume that he is resigning his employment.

            He told the warehouse manager (after he was released for light duty after teh heart attack)that he would not come in for duty and he has not shown up or responded. I do not believe that they should have continued to pay once he was released for light duty from the neck injury. Can we object to the fact that they continued to pay for his time off. It seems that they paid extra time to try to protect themselves? I believe that this extended pay has encouraged him to seek more money. Even though he was paid for extra time off he has hired an attorney to file for more money for his time off.

            Even though he had no intention of coming back to work he came to the company Christmas party; this is where he announced to the warehouse manager that he was not going show up for work. He heard about the party form other employees that he lives with and decided that he should be there. We now understand that he has filed several workmen’s comp claims.
            Do we need to hire an attorney for this? Can we as a company be held liable for any of this nonsense?

            Thank you for your help.
            Last edited by TM1; 12-27-2007, 11:21 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Absolutley you need to keep your carrier informed. They dont know when he is working and they dont know that he has refused light duty unless you tell them.
              Its sometimes hard to separate out bills from one medical condition from another so you need to make them aware of everything that goes on.

              We had an employee who was charging every medication he had to WC including his diabetic supplies, cholesterol meds and his Valtrex and he had a knee problem. Luckily, they caught it but it could easily have gone thru.

              Your carrier should be your friend and you should be talking often.
              I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
              Thomas Jefferson

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              • #8
                Seconding picking up the phone and calling the carrier immediately! Why they paid benefits in the first place if you had light duty available is beyond me. Same with paying benefits if he is well enough to show up to the party. Talk to the adjuster and their legal counsel asap. I would be asking why benefits were ever paid. They need to know all of this.

                He can file for anything he likes, but I can't imagine he has a prayer of prevailing. I'd get your legal counsel on board as far as the termination and such goes, but they will have little to do with the claim.
                I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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                • #9
                  Too ill to show up to work for light duty but able to come to the Company holiday party. Nice.

                  Yes, I suggest you consult with a WC attorney. At this point, I certainly would. You seem to have hired someone who knows how to "work" the WC system so you're not dealing with a novice here. You need to fire this guy for refusing to report to work but you definitely should speak to an attorney first. I'd also be demanding that my WC carrier explain why they've been paying TTD benefits.

                  P.S. You should speak to a WC attorney OF YOUR OWN. Your WC carrier's attorney is not going to advise you on any direct liability you may have for terminating this guy. The WC attorney's role is to represent the WC carrier's best interests - which sometimes are the same as their client (your company) but not always.

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                  • #10
                    Not that I'm adding anything important to this thread, but I've actually HAD a heart attack at work. I would have never considered filing a WC claim for it, because I couldn't fathom it being approved.
                    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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                    • #11
                      Patty, I hate to burst your bubble, but a heart attack at work can be covered by workers comp in most states.

                      It can be an "injury by accident" if it is precipitated by unusual or extraordinary on the job exertion. Most of the compensable heart attack cases of which I am aware arose in the truck driving and law enforcement occupations. Of course, having a predisposition towards having a heart attack due to diet, family history, etc., is irrelevant in most states, as the employer must take the worker as he or she is. If the on the job accident or unusual exertion triggered it, it should be covered regardless of the pre-existing condition.

                      But the OP's situation does not sound like a heart attack case that is or should be covered. Sounds like light duty for the neck injury, if that is what it was, extended throughout the time EE was out for the heart problem, which would explain why wage loss was paid during the heart problem.

                      And coming to a party certainly does not mean that the person is medically or physically capable of working in any type of labor setting. Those are two completely different and unrelated issues.
                      Bob Bollinger, Attorney
                      Board Certified Specialist in NC Workers' Compensation Law
                      Charlotte, NC

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I don't think anyone said it couldn't be covered, just that it usually isn't.
                        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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                        • #13
                          I actually had a heart attack too and I feel it should have been covered. I drove a popular brand name bus line overnight and they work you to death. Lots of drivers die from this.
                          They call you day and night and you sit for prolonged periods and the blood pools in the legs and the next thing you know you're getting chest pains. I consulted an attorney at the time and was told if it didn't happen on the job (mine happens after getting home from work) it's not covered and he didn't take the case. But my point here is that a job can surely give a person a heart attack.
                          Last edited by Poolguy2008; 01-08-2008, 07:50 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Poolguy2008 View Post
                            But my point here is that a job can surely give a person a heart attack.
                            So can smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, not exercising, etc. So?
                            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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                            • #15
                              settlement

                              The insurance company has had their lawyer call us. The employee hurt his neck/shoulder on Oct 10. He came into the office on Oct 30, and asked if we had light duty for him. We said yes and that he could start light duty as soon as he was released. That same day we received a call from w/c saying that he had been released for light duty, as of Oct 30. He did not show up for light duty and claimed that he that he was not released for light duty yet, even though w/c said that he was. He had a heart attach Nov 3rd and had not yet come back into work. He has worked for us for less than 6 months as a delivery driver and there are always two people on each truck to carry items.

                              So, as far as I know he was released for light duty related to his neck/shoulder on October 30. He was released by the heart doctor on Dec 17, to take an emg/ncv test and be released again by w/c doctor. W/C continued to pay his time off during this entire time. (I do not know if they should have paid this. They did not cover these medical bills). After his second release we sent him a letter stating that we would like him to start light duty of Dec 24. He told the warehouse manager that he was not coming in. He has not called or shown up since.

                              W/C and his lawyer now want to settle this case. They want to settle quickly and have convinced my controller that trying to fight the settlement or retaining a lawyer would be a mistake and cost the company more money. They think that he will settle for $5,000-10,000 dollars. Does this sound reasonable? This seems to be excessive for an injury that really should have only kept him off the job 20 days. They are coming in to speak with my employees next week. Is it a good idea for us to settle this quickly or does it seem like w/c is trying to speed this up to lessen their responsibility? About how much would it cost to hire a lawyer to deal with a matter such as this? I am not trying to keep this person form getting any w/c that he is due; I am trying to keep him from abusing my company.
                              Thanks for the help
                              Last edited by TM1; 12-31-2007, 08:32 AM.

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