For a free evaluation of your case

What is the Heart Bill?

The Heart Bill is a very important piece of legislation that was enacted specifically to protect first responders. When we refer to first responders, I'm referring to police officers, corrections officers and also firefighters. These individuals under The Heart Bill receive a special statutory protection that if they develop heart disease or hypertension, those conditions are considered work related as a matter of law. There are a couple of preconditions that have to be met in order to qualify for The Heart Bill but it's an enormously important protection that any first responder should understand clearly.

Watch Video

Who does the Heart Bill protect?

The Heart Bill protections are very specific to a group that we refer to generally as first responders. We refer to this group as first responders just to be inclusive, but the statutory references are to corrections officers, law enforcement officers and firefighters, so those three groups are really the groups that the Heart Bill focuses on. If you're a certified law enforcement officer, a certified corrections officer or a certified firefighter in the State of Florida, the Heart Bill protection is there for you.

Watch Video

What conditions are covered by the Heart Bill?

The Heart Bill provides very specific protections for both hypertension and heart disease. Heart disease is a general term, a very broad term that covers a number of different conditions, including coronary artery disease, cardiac arrhythmias but really any condition that adversely affects the heart is covered under the Heart Bill. Hypertension also is a broad category but it's interchangeably considered with high blood pressure and hypertension. These conditions are both covered.

There's also coverage for tuberculosis under the Heart Bill. Although we don't see many claims related to tuberculosis, there has been an uptick recently in tuberculosis claims with corrections officers because of their work environment.

Watch Video

Do I have to be disabled to file a Heart Bill Claim?

The Heart Bill does provide for a requirement of disability in order for a claim to be made. Essentially, disability is one of the four elements that we look at with any new case. The disability is what is considered the accident with regard to a worker's compensation claim involving a Heart Bill issue. There has to be some measure of disability. That doesn't mean that you are permanently disabled from your job, it means that you've had some limited period of disability. Maybe even a short period, maybe a number of hours where you couldn't do your normal job because of the condition you were claiming. If your hypertension kept you from doing your normal job for an hour, that may very well be sufficient. Likewise, if you had chest pain, and were diagnosed with a cardiac condition and only missed a day or even a few hours, that is normally sufficient disability to trigger a claim.

Watch Video

Can I file a Heart Bill claim after I retire?

In most instances you cannot file a claim under the Heart Bill post-retirement. The reason for this is that the statute is very clear. It only provides protection for those first responders who are still on the job. The case law that has interpreted the statute is also extremely exclusive and provides, in really very clear terms, that there is no coverage for somebody post-retirement. We need to establish some disability for the cardiac condition or the hypertension prior to retirement. As long as that has been done, the claim will be viable; but if no diagnosis is made and no disability is established prior to retirement, it's going to be very difficult to make a claim.

Watch Video

What is the process for filing a Heart Bill claim?

The Heart Bill claim is filed in much the same way that a typical worker's compensation claim would be filed. You have to go through a process of filing a notice of injury with your employer. Typically this is done around the time of a disability related to either hypertension or heart disease. A person is out of work because they have suffered a condition of high blood pressure or they've had a cardiac event of some kind.

When that occurs an accident report has to be filed. The employee typically does this if they understand how to do it and the protections that are provided by the Heart Bill, but the employer also has an obligation to file a first report of injury if they know of a cardiac disability or a disability related to hypertension that has occurred.

Watch Video

What benefits will I receive under the Heart Bill?

If you are covered under the heart bill, then you are entitled to both medical care and lost wages for the condition that you're claiming. With respect to heart disease, that can mean medication of course, medical care with a doctor, surgical intervention where necessary, and also you can be entitled to treatment for conditions that are necessary to treat the cardiac condition. Things like diabetes is covered. Erectile dysfunction is also covered frequently because of the side effects of medication and/or the condition itself. There is a wide variety of different conditions that you are covered for and benefits that you are entitled to on the medical side.

On the lost wage side, you're entitled to benefits for as long as you're out of work. You're then entitled to something called impairment benefits, which can be very substantial. Then the worse case is you can be entitled to something called permanent disability benefits if your disability is permanent and you're incapable of working.

Watch Video

Am I entitled to monetary compensation if I have a Heart Bill Claim?

The Heart Bill claims provides for various types of monetary compensation if you have a claim. You will be entitled to temporary disability benefits while you're out of work because of either your hypertension or your heart disease condition. You'll also be entitled to something called impairment benefits at the point you reach maximum medical improvement, which is a medical legal term meaning you have plateaued. Your case has plateaued and there's no anticipation of further recovery. So there is a substantial payment made at the point of maximum medical improvement. This is the impairment benefit. Then, finally, there is an allocation for permanent total disability for people who are unable to work in any capacity because of a cardiac condition. These are the biggest types of cases. The annual compensation for permanent total disability can be $40,000, $45,000 and beyond.

Watch Video

Can I settle my Heart Bill claim?

Heart Bill claims can be settled like any Workers' Compensation case can be settled. But you need to be very careful about settling these cases, because of the value and the fact that future medical can be extremely expensive. Future medical as it relates to prescription medication is of particular concern. These cases, yes, they can be settled. The problem is making sure that they're being evaluated appropriately and that you're getting a fair value if you're going to settle the case and getting the real worth in terms of a resolution.

Watch Video

What is my Heart Bill claim worth?

Each Heart Bill claim is extremely valuable, but it's hard to quantify in any general way about the value of these cases. Typically the hypertension cases we'll be looking at the future medical costs and the cost of medication. So you can project the costs of the medical treatment and the medication over the course of a lifetime to get a general idea of what that claim is worth. Of course you have to add to that any compensation that is made monetarily with regard to the claim, but the truth of it is these are very fact specific cases, and the value of the claim will depend largely on how severe the condition is and how severe the restrictions are.

Watch Video

Can my employer fire me or retaliate against me for filing a Heart Bill claim?

There are very specific statutory prohibitions against retaliation or termination of a first responder who has filed a Heart Bill claim. Those prohibitions are contained in Florida statute 440.205. It's very clear statutorily that no such harassment retaliation or certainly termination is legal under our existing law. If a person is subject to harassment retaliation or has ultimately been terminated because of Heartbill claim they may have a separate civil suit against their employer for wrongful termination.

Watch Video

Does the Heart Bill provide coverage if I have a heart attack or an episode of high blood pressure while away from work?

Yes. This is a very important issue as to whether there's coverage for conditions or abnormalities that occur maybe off the job. A lot of people assume that they're not covered if they're not working for the Heart Bill protections. In fact, the Heart Bill is a 24/7 protection. It's always there whether you're working or not. That's because the Heart Bill provides for coverage of these conditions as though their occupational disease is under Florida law. As long as you are employed as a firefighter, corrections officer or police officer, that protection is available to you whether you are working or not.

Watch Video

Is high blood pressure/hypertension covered by the Heart Bill?

Yes. High blood pressure and hypertension are terms that are used interchangeably, but the Heart Bill specifically by statutory reference includes conditions of hypertension. That can be primary hypertension or essential hypertension. It can also be secondary hypertension. But, if you have a diagnosis of the condition hypertension, that is covered by the Heart Bill.

Watch Video

How do I prove my heart condition is work related?

Well the beauty of the Heart Bill is that you don't have to prove your heart condition is work related. The heart condition is presumed to be work related by operation of law, that's what the Heart Bill is all about. If you meet the prerequisites for coverage under the Act, then it will be the employer's burden to carry and they will have to prove that your heart condition is not work related, that is a very difficult burden for them to carry and it's one of the reason that the Heart Bill is so important to our first responder community.

Watch Video

How do I prove my high blood pressure is work related?

The high blood pressure condition is interesting. High blood pressure is used interchangeably with hypertension. Hypertension is covered by the Statute, and it is not the burden on the employee to prove a work relationship. It is the very nature of the heart bill protection that the presumption applies and that the coverage is there. The benefit to the first responder is that the burden of proof is on the employer to show that the condition is not work-related. That's a very difficult burden to carry, especially in cases of hypertension. Primarily this is true because the doctors don't know what causes hypertension. If they can't say what the cause of the condition is, it's extremely difficult for them to say that work was not the cause.

Watch Video

What if I had a heart condition prior to beginning work as a First Responder?

In order to qualify for the Heart Bill, you have to have a clean pre-employment physical. That means you have to have entered employment with the agency you're making the claim against without a pre-existing condition that is reflected on your pre-employment physical. The fact that a person has a heart attack before they enter service with a new agency can be problematic to making a claim, but if there's no evidence of that heart attack or the heart disease on the pre-employment physical, there may still be coverage under the heart bill. Those are difficult cases, but we have won them on occasion and any person with that type of a problem should seek adequate legal counsel for further advice.

Watch Video

Can I have my hypertension claim accepted if my employer denied a prior hypertension claim?

Yes, for our first responders here in the state of Florida under the Heart Bill, there is an important provision that identifies new accidents. The accident in hypertension cause, if you meet the four prongs of our standard to meet a hypertension case, just because one may have been denied in the past does not preclude you for a new incident that may occur at any time during your employment.

Watch Video