Pre-existing injuries can complicate a workplace injury and by extension, an individual’s workers’ compensation claim. This is because having a pre-existing injury can make it more difficult for an attending treatment physician to determine not only whether an injury was caused by the accident the victim suffered on the job, but the extent to which the accident caused the injury.
A pre-existing injury cannot be cited as a reason to deny an individual the right to receive workers’ compensation coverage. If you have a pre-existing injury, it is important that you disclose it to both your doctor and your attorney when seeking a workers’ compensation claim. This information is important when conducting an investigation of your claim and determining an appropriate settlement amount to compensate you for your medical expenses. The doctor might also consider your pre-existing injury when treating your workplace injury and determining a recovery plan – sometimes, the existence of one injury can affect the treatment of another.
Examples of Pre-existing Injuries
Any injury that an individual was already living with at the time of his or her accident can be considered to be a pre-existing injury. Some examples of pre-existing injuries that can affect a workplace injury and subsequently, a workers’ compensation claim, include the following:
- Herniated disks;
- Broken bones;
- Torn ligaments;
- Joint damage;
- Anemia or other blood-related conditions;
- Tissue damage; and
- Nerve damage.
A pre-existing injury can cause a workplace injury to be more severe than it would have been for a completely healthy individual. In some cases, such an injury makes the individual more susceptible to further injuries. This is what can easily lead to a wrongful denial of an individual’s workers’ compensation claim – when a workers’ compensation provider determines that the individual’s injury was merely an aggravation of an old injury, rather than a completely new injury caused by the accident that happened while he or she was working, the provider can be quick to deny the claim. This can require the claimant to appeal the decision, which can become a long, complicated process. If you have a pre-existing condition, understand the profound effect it could have on your workers’ compensation claim and work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to protect your interests and pursue the money you deserve.
Proving an Injury vs. an Aggravation
You might need to prove that the injury you suffered at work is a new injury, rather than an aggravation of your pre-existing injury. Do this by telling the truth and providing your company’s workers’ compensation provider with ample evidence to show that you recovered fully from your pre-existing injury. If you did not recover from your pre-existing injury, but instead it is the type of injury or condition that you need to manage on a day-to-day basis, provide proof of this.
Evidence that you can use to prove that your pre-existing injury is not the same as your workplace injury will come from your current and previous doctor. Include documentation of your medical history, the accident that led to your first injury, and that injury’s treatment with your workers’ compensation claim. Discuss this previous injury with your attending treatment physician as you work with him or her to recover from your workplace injury – he or she should be able to make a determination of which pain is caused by the pre-existing injury and which is strictly due to the new injury. The key idea here is to distance your new injury from your old one – prove to the workers’ compensation provider that the two are distinct injuries, with the second being sustained entirely while you were on the job.