Workers’ compensation claims, unlike other types of personal injury claims, don’t require victims to prove someone or something else caused their injury. The only thing victims are usually required to prove is that their injury happened at work. But for that reason, workers’ compensation claims are often rejected because insurance companies claim that the victims’ injuries were a pre-existing condition.
However, when accidents at work cause pre-existing injuries to become worse, workers may still be eligible for compensation.
How Does This Work?
While the saying may go, “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” the reality is that people who have experienced an injury once are more likely to re-injure themselves than other people. Depending on their pre-existing condition, they may also be more likely to experience other types of injuries or illnesses.
For example, imagine two co-workers named Jim and Bob are walking together, and both slip and fall on a wet floor at work. Jim is a healthy man with no prior serious injuries, and he gets back up again with only bruises. Bob, on the other hand, damaged his knee playing football a year ago, and this fall causes him to re-injure that same knee.
Jim and Bob’s employer says they will not pay for Bob’s treatment because it’s a pre-existing injury. However, just because Bob’s injury from falling was worse than Jim’s because his knee was already weak from his previous injury, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for this new injury, since it occurred while Bob was at work.
This is because employers are required to take employees “as they are,” meaning Bob’s prior health or history of injury is not legally relevant to any new injuries he suffers while on the job.
Are There Exceptions?
Yes, you must be able to prove that any injury you suffer at work is either a truly new injury (even if it’s one that an existing condition may have contributed to) or an “aggravation” of an existing injury or condition. And not everything counts as aggravation.
If you occasionally experience “flare-ups” of your existing injury, and one just happens to occur at work, that is not enough to prove the injury was actually made worse than it already was by your job duties. A doctor’s opinion will be vitally important in proving your injury was actually aggravated.
Your compensation may also be proportionally reduced to account for the existing injury. For example, if you would rate your pain from your pre-existing condition before suffering the aggravating injury at 3/10, and after the aggravating injury at 8/10, your compensation would be calculated as if your pain were 5/10, as that’s how much of your pain is “new.”
When Pre-Existing Conditions are Involved, You Need a Lawyer
If you suffer an injury at work, but you have a pre-existing condition, your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance will try their hardest to prove that your injury is solely an existing injury, and not a new injury or an aggravated injury. It can be extremely difficult to win these types of claims without a lawyer on your side who knows the ins-and-outs of the workers’ compensation system to combat their arguments and close loopholes that may work against you.
The Georgia and Alabama workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Gary Bruce know how to get injured workers the compensation they’re owed, even when pre-existing conditions are involved. Contact us today for a free initial consultation to learn if you still have a case after a work accident that aggravated an existing injury.