Workers’ Compensation and Pre-Existing Conditions
Most of us have been injured at some point in our lives, whether it was a past sports injury or a more recent car accident. When you are injured at work, however, you may wonder how a pre-existing injury or condition will affect your ability to file a claim and how you can prove that your pain and symptoms are related to your work accident.
The truth is that while having a pre-existing injury will not prevent you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits, it will make it more difficult. You need to clearly show that your injury or reinjury was a direct result of the accident at work and that requires evidence, medical examinations, and legal assistance. While you don’t have to establish negligence in workers’ compensation claims, you do have to establish that your injury was directly related to an accident or incident that happened while you were in the course of employment. When you have a pre-existing injury, this becomes more important.
If you’ve been injured at work and re-aggravated a pre-existing injury, you may face complications when filing a workers’ compensation claim. At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, our Arkansas workers’ compensation attorneys can help you during this time and protect your rights to full benefits as entitled by Arkansas law.
Pre-Existing Prior Workers’ Compensation Injury
If you’re reinjured after filing or finishing a previous workers’ compensation claim, you are still entitled to benefits under Arkansas law. Your employer may deny your claim on the grounds of your pre-existing injury, but if you were re-injured while on the job, you can successfully appeal this type of denial.
In order to receive benefits, you must establish that this injury is different and separate from the initial damage. Still being injured isn’t enough, a separate incident must have occurred that caused re-injury or caused your existing injury to worsen. For example: perhaps you tore your MCL/ACL in a work accident and then returned to work. A year later, you slip on wet flooring in the warehouse and re-injure your knee. You should be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim because your injury was caused by a new accident at work, even though it’s the same area of your body.
Your employer’s insurance company may determine that your original injury or condition was never properly corrected, and that injury is responsible for your inability to work. They may also instruct your claim to be made against the old employer’s insurance. This determination may make your workers’ compensation claim complicated as your old employer and new employer may differ on their opinion of who is ultimately responsible for your claim.
Additionally, if your preexisting injury is associated with a prior workers’ compensation claim, your award could be reduced because of your existing injury. If the second injury results in a permanent disability, any permanent disability benefits that you previously received could have a significant impact on your new benefits. During this time, the services of an Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyer are invaluable.
Pre-Existing Non-Workers’ Compensation Injury
If you have a pre-existing injury that did not occur at work, such as an old running injury or accident injury, you are still eligible for workers’ compensation if you aggravate that existing injury. Simply having a bad back or an already repaired knee joint isn’t enough for your employer to deny your claim. Most adults have a pre-existing injury or condition. When a work-related accident occurs that aggravates the condition, you can file a claim and collect workers’ compensation.
Collecting benefits depends largely on establishing clearly that your injury was made worse by your job accident. To do this, your attorney will need to have your doctor or physician examine your injury and medically state that your injury was aggravated by a work accident. Insurance companies will then look at your new medical condition and compare past medical records to make their determination.
Document what happened and notify your employer immediately when you are injured, but especially if you have a history of chronic pain or a pre-existing injury or condition.
Unrelated Pre-Existing Injury
You are typically not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits unless you can establish that your accident aggravated your injury. For example, if you have a history of back pain and you break your hand in a work accident, you will only be eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits for your injured hand and not your back. If, however, your accident caused your back pain to worsen, then you may be able to collect benefits.
These types of pre-existing injuries can be difficult to prove without the help and guidance of a workers’ compensation lawyer. Your lawyer will need to examine all of your medical records, speak with medical experts, and investigate your work incident to determine if you are eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits by law.
How We Can Help
At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, we know that insurance companies will look for any reason to deny your workers’ compensation claim and a pre-existing injury is the perfect excuse. They will try to pin some or even all of the blame on something that happened years ago—instead of the accident that just occurred at work. Even if your claim is accepted and you begin receiving benefits, they may suddenly claim a “resolution of aggravation” and wish to stop your benefits. Make sure you have a lawyer on your side with an extensive knowledge of workers’ compensation laws in Arkansas.
We’re There When You Need Us
The workers’ compensation process is a difficult and often frustrating process for injured workers. When your claim is denied or rejected, it can feel like there is no hope. Luckily, the law is on your side and we can help.
With four offices in Arkansas—Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, and Hot Springs—our Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you are injured. Contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton Workers’ Compensation Lawyers today. Fill out a free contact request form, which only takes a minute, or simply dial (800) 767-4815 and we can get to work for you.