The purpose of the Workers' Compensation Act in Connecticut is to provide wage replacement, medical treatment and other benefits to employees who have been injured, disabled or killed while performing their jobs. The Workers' Compensation Act is also known as Chapter 568 of the Connecticut General Statutes.
The Workers' Compensation Act was enacted to provide compensation for injuries related to employment without regard to fault. It imposes a form of strict liability on the employer. To recover compensation under this Act, the employee must prove that the injury arose out of and within the course of employment. Under Connecticut's workers' compensation laws, an employee qualifies for workers' compensation if he or she suffers a work-related injury - but the employee waives the right to sue the employer for damages related to the injury unless the injury was intentional.
The Creation of the Heart and Hypertension Act
A statute regarding heart disease and hypertension was initially created in Connecticut as part of the Workers' Compensation Act. It provided firefighters and police officers with a rebuttable presumption that heart disease and hypertension were caused by their occupations. In 1969, this rebuttable presumption was made conclusive. This statute was then declared unconstitutional in Ducharme v. Putnam in 1971. In responding to that problem, legislation known as the Heart and Hypertension Act was enacted in 1977. This Act is separate from the Workers' Compensation Act. The Heart and Hypertension Act is codified in Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-433c.
Connecticut's Heart and Hypertension Act is a separate compensation program for police officers and firefighters with hypertension or heart disease. The purpose of this Act is to permit a police officer or firefighter who develops hypertension or heart disease after beginning employment to recover benefits without having to prove that the problem is job related.
Qualifying for Benefits
To qualify for benefits under the Heart and Hypertension Act, one must be a uniformed member of a municipal fire department or a regular member of a paid municipal police department who was hired before July 1, 1996. Effective July 1, 2009, Public Act No. 08-61 provides a rebuttable presumption that a "cardiac emergency" is compensable for regular members of police and fire departments or constable, hired on or after July 1, 1996.
This Act provides that firefighters or police officers who pass a pre-employment physical revealing no evidence of hypertension or heart disease and subsequently become disabled by either of these conditions are presumed to have developed the condition in the performance of their duties. The employee does not need to prove that his or her condition has been caused by the employment.
In recognizing the stress placed upon firefighters and police officers, the Heart and Hypertension Act guarantees benefits equivalent to workers' compensation for those who meet the eligibility requirements. Those eligible are entitled to two separate benefits. Qualified employees are entitled to benefits and medical care in the same amount and manner as provided under the Workers' Compensation Act. If the employee dies, his or her dependents may be entitled to collect survivor benefits.
The Heart and Hypertension Act requires the firefighter or police officer to provide written notice to the employer within one year of having symptoms or being diagnosed with heart disease or hypertension. Claims for heart disease typically have a readily understood date from which to file. This could be the date one has a heart attack, for example. Determining the date by which one has to file claims for hypertension may not be as clear-cut. There may not be a particular event which unmistakably reveals hypertension. One should file a claim soon after one is diagnosed as having hypertension, is prescribed medication for this condition or has an elevated blood pressure reading.
Protecting Your Rights
If you have questions about whether you or a loved one may qualify for benefits under Connecticut's Heart and Hypertension or Workers' Compensation Acts, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. This is a complex area of the law and it is vital that you meet filing deadlines and make sure that your legal rights are protected.