How Prior Injuries Can Affect Your Ability to Collect Workers’ Compensation
You may notice that it takes longer for you to stand than it once did. Or perhaps there may be a few more clicks in your knee than there were in your youth. As we get older, our bodies begin to show signs of age. Unfortunately, past injuries can accelerate these effects, placing you at an even higher risk for new injuries.
Regrettably, insurance companies will use the gradual wear and tear on your body to their advantage when investigating workers’ compensation cases.
Previous Injury Factors That Can Complicate Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
A pre-existing condition does not mean that you cannot collect workers’ compensation benefits. It does, however, mean that your claim may be more complicated. As you may realize, insurance companies don’t want to pay for injuries in which they (or their clients) are not liable. Therefore, when a workplace injury occurs or worsens as a result of a pre-existing condition, the insurance company will often argue that the accident in question wasn’t the cause of the employee’s pain—or at least not the only cause.
How the current accident affected the previous injury will determine the amount of workers’ compensation awarded. There are three significant factors that apply to workers’ compensation when previous injuries are in play. These three factors include whether the accident in question caused a new injury, a re-injury, or the aggravation of an old injury.
To better explain the differences between these effects, imagine that you have an old knee injury. Besides the occasional twinge, it doesn’t bother you that much…until you suffer a work-related accident. One day at work, you fall off of a step stool and tear a ligament in that same knee.
What will your workers’ compensation cover? It depends. You must determine what the new injuries are compared to your previous condition:
- A new injury. Since you had an old injury in that knee, your knee was already mildly impaired. A typical workers’ compensation claim in this scenario will see you collecting benefits to account for that particular ligament tear, but it will not cover treatment for the previous injury’s damage.
- A re-injury. Changing the scenario a bit, let’s say that you have an old knee injury, but it is the result of an injury sustained at work a few years ago. You injure the same knee again while at work. With this injury, you can also receive benefits, but they will be adjusted for any money you already received from the first workers’ compensation claim. This means that your employer will still pay for all of your new medical bills, but further benefits may be adjusted based on your previous awards.
- An aggravation of an old injury. We’ll use the same scenario as the “re-injury”—you have an old knee injury, but it is the result of an injury sustained at work a few years ago. A twinge in that knee made you lose your balance and fall off the step stool. When you get home, the injured knee is sore. Although you don’t feel that you need medical treatment, a few days of relaxation would probably help. Since the knee was previously injured and your accident was not only caused by the injury but also only aggravated the initial problem, the workers’ compensation insurer will most likely deny the claim.
It’s easy to forget about our previous injuries as time passes, but when you’re injured on the job, new pain can serve as a cruel wake-up call. If you were injured at work and have a pre-existing condition, contact our firm today by clicking on the live chat feature. We’ll help you understand your rights and schedule your complimentary case evaluation with attorney Steve Lee.
Workers’ compensation law can be extremely confusing. However, that confusion shouldn’t be enough to prevent you from getting the help and support you need. Call, click, or visit us today and see how our 35 years’ worth of experience can help you.