If you already had an injury, you might mistakenly think that you cannot collect workers’ compensation benefits if your job aggravated your condition, but it is possible to get workers’ compensation benefits in this situation. Here are some suggestions on proving an existing injury was made worse by your job.
Pre-Existing Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ Compensation covers pre-existing conditions if your work duties worsen or aggregate them. The purpose of the workers’ compensation program in Georgia is to provide medical, rehabilitation, and income benefits to people who get injured on the job.
If your injury did not happen on the job, you cannot collect benefits, unless your job worsened your previous “off-the-job” injury. In that situation, you can qualify for the difference in your previous condition after the first injury and your current condition after your initial injury got aggravated by your work.
The key will be showing two things:
- How severe your condition is now after getting worse from your job, and
- How bad your condition was originally before it got aggravated by working.
When we can establish both of those things, we can pursue workers’ compensation benefits for you.
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Proving the Severity of Your Current Injury
You would prove the first element, the severity of your current condition, the same way you would establish any other on-the-job injury. Your medical records should show what kind of injury you suffered, when it happened, and whether you told the medical provider that the injury was work-related.
The physical examination performed by the authorized treating doctor and results of any tests the physician ordered, like x-rays or an MRI, will also provide details about your current condition after the aggravation of the pre-existing injury. You should not try to hide the previous injury from your employer or the workers’ compensation program healthcare providers. Doing so could be grounds for a denial or reduction of benefits.
What Information You Need to Show About Your Pre-Existing Condition
You will need to obtain your previous medical records from the healthcare professionals who treated your pre-existing condition to prove how much you had recuperated and whether you had an ongoing impairment from that injury. You will look for statements from your doctor like:
- The patient is released from treatment for this injury to his left hand. He has fully recuperated and regained 100 percent of his previous strength, function, and range of motion.
- The patient is released from treatment for this injury. After a six-week course of physical therapy, he is not expected to make additional improvement. He now has an approximately 10 percent decreased range of motion and moderately decreased grip (25%).
This kind of information will give the State Worker’s Compensation Board a starting reference point from which they can determine how much worse your job made your previous injury.
In general, a person will receive less compensation for a second injury than for injuring a previously uninjured part of the body. It can make a difference, though, if the original injury was also work-related and the claimant received workers’ compensation benefits for that injury.
Also, if the initial injury was a long time ago, not a work-related injury, and the individual recuperated fully from the first injury, there can be an argument for no reduction in benefits. The investigator will question the claim when a worker repeatedly injures the same body part on the job within a short time period, like only a year or two apart.
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How Long Benefits Can Last for an Aggravated Pre-Existing Injury
If you already had an impairment from the previous injury, you cannot collect workers’ compensation benefits for as long as you might think. Typically, a person can get workers’ compensation benefits until their approved treating physician says that they have fully recuperated from their work-related injury or recovered as much as the doctor expects that they will.
The injured worker might receive some benefits for the resulting impairment that is expected to be permanent. With a pre-existing injury, however, you can only get income benefits until you have healed to the level of impairment you had after the original injury, which might still involve some impairment.
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Handbook of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation says that if a pre-existing condition or injury gets reinjured or aggravated on the job, you can only receive benefits for as long as the aggravation causes a disability.
In other words, if you were not 100 percent after the first injury, you cannot continue to collect benefits until you are 100 percent after the second injury.
Work With Bader Scott Injury Lawyers
Bader Scott Injury Lawyers help people who get injured on the job, whether it is your first injury or the aggravation of a pre-existing injury or condition. You can contact us today to find out if we can help you.