New York work environments can be dangerous- everyone knows construction zones and certain factories have inherent physical risks to workers. In these environments, workplace accidents can easily occur if proper safety precautions are not taken. When a workplace accident occurs, workers’ compensation is available to help cover expenses incurred by the injury, including medical costs and lost wages.
On the other hand, although a particular workplace may not be inherently dangerous, the stress of the job can still cause injury and illness to employees. In situations where stress has caused a workplace injury, one may wonder whether workers’ compensation is available to injured party. One New York court has recently addressed this issue.
In this case, a man was working as the manager for a grocery store on a Super Bowl Sunday. During his shift, he got into a fight with an unsatisfied customer. Hours after the altercation with the customer, while still at work, the man suffered a heart attack and died as a result. His widow then filed for workers’ compensation death benefits. She claimed that the stress of the fight with the customer and the stress of running the store on such a busy day caused the heart attack and his subsequent death.
When a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge denied coverage to the man’s widow, the case was appealed. The Workers’ Compensation Board and the New York Appeals Court both sided with the woman. The court claimed that since the stress of the altercation likely caused the heart attack, the death could be considered work related, even though the fight occurred hours before his death.
This ruling could open up the possibility for other workers to receive compensations for work related injuries or illnesses caused by stress. The widow’s efforts prove how important it is to be persistent in workers’ compensation cases, and not to simply give up when an employer denies benefits. Though the loss of her husband is still undoubtedly painful to the woman, at least she will not have to suffer the added financial strain brought on by the man’s untimely death.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Workers’ Comp for Dying on Super Bowl Sunday,” Jeff D. Gorman, Oct. 22, 2012