If you’ve received a work-related injury in a part of the body where you already have a pre-existing condition, you may be reluctant to file a workers’ compensation claim because you may worry that you’ll be unable to prove that your pain is related to your injury. However, exacerbation of an existing injury is compensable under law, so you shouldn’t hesitate to file a workers’ compensation claim if you believe that a work-related injury made your pain worse.
What the Law Says
A pre-existing condition could include an old injury, a medical condition such as arthritis, or a previous work-related complaint. Under the law, your employer’s workers’ comp insurer is required to compensate you for any injury you sustain on the job, which includes an exacerbation of an existing injury or condition, regardless of what caused it initially. It is against the law for an insurance company to deny your workers’ compensation claim solely on the basis of a pre-existing condition.
However, your employer is not responsible for compensating you for the old injury itself, merely for the damage caused by worsening it. For this reason, it can sometimes be difficult to sort out how much pain is attributable to the pre-existing condition and how much is the result of the new injury. Unfortunately, employers and insurers sometimes try to leverage this uncertainty to benefit themselves and pay out less than you deserve.
What You Should Do
You can help to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve by taking the following steps.
- File a Claim Right Away
It doesn’t help your case to delay in filing a claim. More often, the opposite is true. File your workers’ compensation claim as soon as possible.
- See a Specialist
There are doctors available who specialize in treating work-related injuries. Seek one of these physicians out for an evaluation. He or she will be familiar with the correct legal terminology required to accurately describe your condition and its causes, so that it will be more difficult for an insurer to justify denying your claim.
- Make Full Disclosure
Be upfront about your pre-existing condition. You may think that it will help your case if you don’t reveal that you have an old injury, but the evidence is likely to come out during medical examination, and the insurance company may have grounds to deny or dismiss your claim if you fail to disclose it.
- Gather Evidence
You should obtain whatever documentation is available related to both your pre-existing condition and your work injury.
A workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to help you obtain the full compensation you deserve. For more information, contact our office today.