Workers’ Compensation provides benefits for employees who get hurt or become ill during the course and scope of their job. These benefits are necessary for workers to offset the costs of care, replace a portion of lost wages, and prevent financial devastation.
While many workplace injuries are obvious and impossible to dispute, the process for employees with pre-existing health conditions is not always as clear. Claims for workers with pre-existing injuries or illnesses are complex, and outcomes will vary.
Common pre-existing conditions include:
- Back pain.
- Heart disease.
- Knee pain.
Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD may also fall under the umbrella of pre-existing conditions, depending on when they are diagnosed.
A complete, up-to-date health history is especially important for claims related to mental and emotional trauma which are exacerbated by a traumatic work accident or work conditions.
A medical issue that predates your workplace injury or illness will likely complicate your case, especially if your condition is medically-related to your claim. You may receive benefits if your work worsened your condition.
An employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance company may argue any permanent impairment you have is directly linked to your pre-existing condition—not the accident. A pre-existing condition can cause your claim to be denied. For this reason, it is essential to document every aspect of your medical care and contact a skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer for guidance.
What If I Reinjure the Same Body Part?
If you had a prior Workers’ Compensation claim for the initial injury, your overall benefits for the subsequent injury may be reduced. Your employer’s insurer may have to pay the costs of your new injury. If you are permanently disabled, they may be only required to pay for the increase in permanent impairment that can be attributed to the new injury.
How to File for Workers’ Compensation When You Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
After any type of workplace accident or illness, it is important to seek medical attention and report the incident to your employer as soon as possible. Every workplace has their own procedures for reporting these events. Failure to notify management and document your accident in a timely manner can weaken your claim.
The difference between the aggravation of a prior work injury and a new work injury affecting the same body part is important in terms of Workers’ Compensation claims processing. You should always be transparent in disclosing previous job-related accidents, injuries, and occupational illnesses to your physician, your employer, and your lawyer.
The Importance of Legal Representation
If you have a pre-existing health condition and you experience a work-related injury, you may encounter some challenges on your path to obtaining Workers’ Compensation benefits. Navigating the claim process without a firm grasp of the law may negatively impact your case. Skilled legal counsel can make all the difference for employees seeking benefits for medical care, lost income, and temporary or permanent impairment.
A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can gather the necessary evidence and file the claim. If the employer refuses to provide medical services and/or temporary disability benefits, a lawyer can file a petition for compensation.
If the claim goes to a hearing, the employee’s lawyer navigates the claim process, including scheduling a deposition and enlisting a medical witness to support their case.
Hearings are held daily and are scheduled in the location closet to where the injury occurred. Although hearings are not as formal as the Superior Court, they are considered official proceedings and should be approached as such. The party who files the petition bears the burden of proof in their case.
How to Choose a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
If this is your first work-related injury, you may have questions about how to find the right attorney to handle your claim. A no-obligation consultation to discuss your case is an ideal way to “interview” a potential lawyer and make sure they are a good fit.
Ask about how they communicate and keep clients informed on the status of their claim. Do they have a record of good outcomes for injured workers? What sort of experience do they have resolving similar cases? Do they focus all or part of their practice on Workers’ Compensation cases?
You want a lawyer who knows the law and is not deterred by the unique challenges that come with claims for pre-existing conditions.
Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Can Help You Obtain Benefits for Job-Related Injuries
A previous health condition should not prohibit you from collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits. If you need help with your claim, speak with one of our Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Rhodes & Morrow. Call us at (302) 427-9500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Wilmington, Bear, Milford, and Lewes, Delaware. With offices in all three counties of Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state.