High Blood Pressure/Hypertension and WC Claims in SC
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 45 percent of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure or take medication for it. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a serious medical condition that puts you at risk for complications like heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the U.S.
A common risk factor for high blood pressure is chronic stress, which is an unavoidable factor in many occupations. If you suspect that work-related conditions contributed to your hypertension, you may have grounds to file a workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina. Workers’ comp benefits can give you the resources you need to focus on your health and treat your high blood pressure properly.
High blood pressure often has no symptoms, and a number of factors can contribute to the condition. As a result, some employers or their insurance companies may challenge your workers’ comp claim.
The South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Stewart Law Offices have more than 30 years of experience proving occupational injury claims, including those involving hypertension. We’ll help you develop a strong claim that documents the link between your hypertension and your work.
To speak with our dedicated worker’s comp lawyers about your legal options, call or contact us now for a free consultation.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension usually develops slowly over a period of time, without any noticeable symptoms. Many people first discover that they have high blood pressure during routine check-ups with their doctors.
There are several groups of people who tend to be at higher risk for hypertension, including African Americans, those who are obese, and those who frequently smoke or drink.
High blood pressure has several possible causes, many of which may be work-related. In some cases, musculoskeletal injuries sustained at work can leave patients with chronic pain or limited mobility. These conditions sometimes lead to excess body weight or long-term use of anti-inflammatory medications, both of which may contribute to high blood pressure.
Work-related stress may also be a contributing factor to high blood pressure. Stress is the body’s reaction to challenging situations, often experienced as a feeling of physical or psychological tension. Stress affects everyone, but chronic exposure to stress can cause damage to the arteries, which may lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Research from the Mayo Clinic suggests that even short-term exposure to elevated stress levels can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure over time.
Common work-related stress factors include:
- Intense physical demands
- Frequent exposure to hazardous situations
- Responsibility for other people
- Responsibility for lots of money or assets
- Frequent job-related travel
- Frequent contact with the public
- Job-related public scrutiny
- Demanding deadlines or output quotas
Examples of occupations that tend to be the most stressful include:
- Military service roles
- Construction workers, painters, and roofers
- Lumberjacks, ironworkers, and miners
- Police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers
- News reporters and photojournalists
- Commercial pilots and air traffic controllers
- Physicians and emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
- Commercial vehicle drivers
- Corporate executives
Medical professionals also recognize links between hypertension and other job-related factors such as poor diet, which is sometimes associated with frequent travel and a lack of exercise among desk workers. No matter the cause, a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can help you demonstrate the connection between your work conditions or duties and your hypertension.
Complications of High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
High blood pressure is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” because of its tendency to cause serious complications with very few or no symptoms. Two of the most common and deadly complications associated with hypertension include heart disease and stroke.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States today. Heart disease is not a specific condition but a general term that refers to multiple different heart-related health issues.
One of the most common types of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which involves narrowed or blocked arteries near the heart. Decreased blood flow from CAD can sometimes cause a heart attack, which is when the heart does not get enough oxygen from the blood.
A stroke, on the other hand, is when the blood supply to the brain is decreased or interrupted. Without regular blood flow, the brain does not receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs, and the brain’s cells can start to die within minutes. High blood pressure can damage the arteries that transport blood to the brain, which increases the risk of a stroke.
Hypertension can have other effects in the body, too. Healthcare providers recognize links between untreated high blood pressure and the following conditions:
- Brain damage, including aneurysms and dementia
- Cognitive impairments such as memory loss
- Eye damage, such as scarring, fluid buildup, and vision loss
- Kidney damage and possible kidney failure
- Osteoporosis, or loss of bone density
- Problems with sleep, such as sleep apnea
- Increased risk of sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction
Can I Make a Claim in South Carolina for High Blood Pressure?
In South Carolina, most employers are required to carry workers’ comp insurance to cover the costs associated with employees’ job-related injuries. The benefits from successful workers’ compensation claims help workers cover expenses, such as medical treatments and lost wages from missed time at work.
To qualify for workers’ comp benefits in South Carolina, employees must be able to demonstrate that their injuries or illnesses are work-related. It’s usually relatively easy to demonstrate that visible injuries, such as abrasions or broken bones, were caused by job-related conditions. However, it can be much harder to prove that invisible conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), occupational diseases, or high blood pressure were the result of work-related factors.
One of the main reasons it can be so difficult to prove that high blood pressure is linked to a person’s job is because hypertension typically develops very gradually over the course of many years. Patients rarely show obvious symptoms of high blood pressure, so it’s not easy to identify exactly how or when the condition began. Employees will need the professional opinion of a doctor to diagnose their hypertension and demonstrate that it was job-related.
How to Prove High Blood Pressure Was Caused by Work
To secure the workers’ compensation benefits you need, you must be able to prove that your high blood pressure was caused by work-related factors. One of the most important things you can do to demonstrate that your hypertension is job-related is to report your condition to your employer as soon as you become aware of it.
In most cases, you must notify your employer within 90 days of the date on which you became aware of the work injury or condition. When you report your hypertension to your employer promptly, you will demonstrate that you are taking your condition seriously and avoid having your claim dismissed due to minor administrative errors.
If you haven’t already done so by the time you make your initial report, it’s a good idea to seek a full medical evaluation as soon as possible. You will need to select a doctor based on your employer’s list of approved healthcare providers in order to avoid paying for the medical treatment out of pocket.
Your doctor can help you evaluate and treat your hypertension, and their report can provide valuable evidence to support your claim. A physician’s medical report may indicate when your high blood pressure began and could also help make connections between your condition and any work-related contributing factors.
What To Do If My Claim Was Denied
Employers or their workers’ comp insurance carriers may try to deny your claim for one or several reasons. Some of the most common justifications for workers’ comp claim denials include:
- Claiming that you missed the 90-day filing deadline, especially if it’s not clear when you first developed high blood pressure
- Arguing that your hypertension was not caused by work-related factors and that you should not be eligible for benefits
- Improperly classifying you as an independent contractor or other exempt employee to avoid responsibility for your work-related injuries
Alleging that you engaged in improper behavior on the job that caused your condition and that you should be disqualified from receiving benefits as a result
- Claiming that your hypertension is a pre-existing condition that should not be covered by workers’ comp
- Insisting that you are exaggerating the severity of your condition or that you lack sufficient proof that it was caused by work-related factors
If your claim is denied for any of these reasons, there are several ways you can respond. With the help of a skilled workers’ compensation attorney, you have the right to:
- Seek a second opinion by requesting an independent medical evaluation (IME)
- Request an informal conference with your employer and a representative from the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC)
- Schedule a formal hearing before an SCWCC commissioner, if you are unable to reach a resolution through an informal conference
- File a Request for Commission Review by a panel of three SCWCC commissioners within 14 days, if the first commissioner denies your claim
- File an appeal with the full Workers’ Compensation Commission within 30 days, if you are not satisfied with the decision of the three-member panel
If your claim is still denied, a lawyer can help you file an appeal with the S.C. Court of Appeals. There are many strict time limits to the appeals process, but the experienced attorneys at Stewart Law Offices can help you meet all of your deadlines and present the best possible case at every stage.
How Stewart Law Offices Can Help
The skilled legal team at Stewart Law Offices can help you demonstrate the connection between your job duties and your high blood pressure so that you can access the benefits you need to manage your condition. We offer free consultations at no obligation to you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.