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First Responder/ Law Enforcement Officers and Their Workers’ Compensation Claims for Hypertension

In the recent case of Jacksonville Sheriffs Office versus Shacklett (34 Florida Law Weekly V1519 July 29, 2009), the First District Court of Appeals reminds us that missing several days of work due to medical appointments is not sufficient to demonstrate disability.

The Workers’ Compensation statute requires that you actually be disabled by your hypertension.

Robert Shacklett reported to a urgent care center where his blood pressure was noted to be elevated. He underwent cardiac diagnostic testing which was negative.

Shacklett was diagnosed with Hypertension, given medication and told to follow up with his primary care doctor.

A first report of injury claim was prepared and the Sheriffs office agreed to pay benefits subject to the “pay and investigate provisions.”

During that period of time Shacklett went to the urgent care center twice for scheduled follow up visits and ultimately he saw his primary care doctor who referred him to a cardiologist. The cardiologist thought that Shacklett had no evidence of significant heart disease and that his chest pain was not cardiac related. Shacklett was released to resume his normal duties with no restrictions and limitations. As a result, the employer/carrier denied the Hypertension and the matter went to trial.

The claimant stipulated that there was no written documentation that he was taken out of work due to Hypertension and that the number of days he missed during the three weeks in question were regularly scheduled days off.

The First District Court of Appeals found that the records were silent as to whether or not the hypertension as opposed to his chest pain was the reason why he could not be returned to work until cleared by the radiologist.

There was nothing in the medical records that specifically addressed whether he was unable, at any time to work due to his Hypertension.

The First District Court of Appeals, and once again has pointed out that you must be disabled by your Hypertension as required by section 112.18 (1) to be entitled to Florida Workers’ Compensation benefits.

If you have been diagnosed with Hypertension and have questions regarding your rights Florida Workers’ Compensation benefits, contact Nancy Cavey, your Florida First Responder disability attorney.