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Workers’ Compensation Benefits Under Florida’s Heart-Lung Bill

Florida Statute 112.18, otherwise known as the Heart-Lung Bill (HLB), provides protections to first responders who develop certain cardiovascular conditions at work. The HLB protects first responders such as law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and firefighters who experience injuries or illnesses related to tuberculosis, high blood pressure, or heart disease during their employment. The HLB presumes that if the Claimant develops one of these conditions during their employment, as long as it was not a pre-existing condition, it was a direct consequence of their employment.

However, the potential recipient must meet the four requirements of the HLB. The presumption requires claimants to:

  • Fall into the protected class,
  • Have one of the listed conditions,
  • Have passed the pre-employment screening, and
  • Be totally or partially disabled.

Those who establish these requirements avail themselves of the HLB protections, regardless of the condition’s cause and whether it occurred while the Claimant was on or off-duty. Despite this bill, employers often deny these claims to avoid disrupting their financial position.

For instance, the First District Court of Appeal recently issued an opinion in a claimant’s appeal after the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denied his workers’ compensation claim. According to the record, the Claimant, a law enforcement officer, was given a pre-employment physical, which showed an elevated blood pressure. However, there was no follow-up, and he was cleared to begin his position. Several years later, he was diagnosed with hypertension and years passed before he had a “hypertensive incident” at work.

Following the event, the Claimant filed for benefits; however, the employer disputed the benefits arguing that they did not arise from work. Further, the employer claimed that the HLB did not apply because the Claimant had a history of high blood pressure. When the parties’ independent medical experts could not agree about whether the pre-employment screening revealed hypertension, the JCC appointed another expert medical advisor (EMA). The EMA opined that the screening indicated hypertension.

Amongst several issues, the Claimant argued that the JCC could not negate the HLB presumption based on the EMA opinion. However, the appeals court found that EMA’s evidence supported the JCC’s conclusion that the Claimant’s pre-employment screening revealed hypertension. The court affirmed the lower court’s conclusion in favor of the employer.

Contact Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

If you or someone you know is encountering challenges securing benefits under Florida’s Heart-Lung Bill, contact the experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada. Our office’s South Florida injury attorneys have extensive experience successfully advocating on behalf of accident vicitms in the state. In addition to Florida workers’ compensation cases, our office handles motor vehicle accident claims, premises liability cases, product liability claims, and medical malpractice lawsuits. Our lawyers can help you understand if you meet the requirements of the Heart-Lung Bill and help you secure the benefits you deserve. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.

 

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