Does a pre-existing condition automatically nix your claim for workers’ compensation benefits?
As of 2015, there were twice as many people aged 65 or older working than there were teenage employees — which means that the United States has an increasingly mature workforce. That’s not all bad — after all, with age comes wisdom.
However, age also brings a host of physical problems, especially things like osteoarthritis, asthma, diabetes and the cumulative damage from repetitive motion injuries.
All of those are considered to be pre-existing conditions if they develop prior to a worker’s current injury claim — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t considered when it comes time to evaluate the need for compensation. When a worker’s current job causes the pre-existing condition to become unnecessarily aggravated, that condition becomes a valid part of a workers’ compensation claim.
For example, a lot of older workers have suffered back injuries at some point in their lifetimes. Given time and treatment, those back injuries either heal completely or become manageable — in either case, the injuries certainly don’t interfere with the employees’ ability to work. However, when one of those employees goes to work and suffers a fall because there was grease spilled on the shop’s floor, the old injury can be aggravated again. While a younger worker might get a few bruises but otherwise escape any serious harm, the older worker may have osteoarthritis at the site of the old injury and end up with a few fractured vertebrae instead.
That older employee who fell is still entitled to workers’ compensation for his or her injuries because the recent on-the-job fall is what caused the pre-existing condition to manifest itself and become disabling.
Similarly, a pre-existing disease may become part of a workers’ comp claim if the current injury aggravates the worker’s condition. For example, an employee with asthma might be more severely affected by the fumes from a chemical spill than an employee without asthma.
The big question is whether or not the illness or injury would have reoccurred or become disabling but for the new workplace injury. If it would not have, then it should be compensated.
An attorney experienced in worker’s comp claims can help you if you believe that you were unfairly denied workers’ compensation due to a pre-existing condition.
Source: Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, “Pre-Existing Conditions,” accessed May 11, 2017