Not all injuries that occur on the job fall under the umbrella of North Carolina workers’ compensation insurance program. Among other mandates, there is a requirement that the injury meets certain criteria.
First, the injury must arise out of the employment. Second, it must also arise in the course of that employment. This generally means that the injury is a foreseeable result of the employment. The nature of the employment provides for the risk of such injury. However, the concept is not always so clear or simply to apply to a given situation. A difficult injury to evaluate may be the situation where a worker suffers a heart attack.
When a heart attack arises out of employment
In the North Carolina case of Dillingham v. Yeargin Construction Co., the court addressed the heart attack situation. It held that injuries from a heart attack may be workers’ compensation related if the event followed “unusual or extraordinary exertion.” However, if there was no unusual exertion, then the heart attack would not have arisen out of the employment, even if it occurred during the course of the employment.
If unusual exertion precedes the heart attack
As such, a heart attack that occurs on the job may or may not be compensable under workers’ compensation rules. There may be a cardiac health issue that stems not from employment, but to the person’s body. That health issue was not a result of the work environment. However, what if the person is engaging in an extremely physically arduous work task that day, one that he or she usually does not engage in? The person would not have engaged in the rigorous activity but for the fact that is was part of his duties that day. The strain, medical doctors may even agree, was too much for his weak cardiac condition, and caused the heart attack. This may be a workers’ compensation matter under North Carolina law.
Heart attacks, like fatigue-related injuries, can be unexpectedly compensable under the workers’ compensation scheme in North Carolina if the worker can establish the criteria for arising out of and in the course of the employment.