Preexisting Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is fairly straightforward when a previously healthy and able-bodied individual suddenly suffers a workplace injury. Workers’ compensation can be more complicated, however, when preexisting injuries are involved. Some injured workers are concerned that a prior injury will make it difficult or impossible to get the benefits they need. The good news is that an injured worker in Pennsylvania can be compensated for an accident that aggravates a preexisting injury, even if the previous injury was not work-related.

If you have a condition that was made worse because of a workplace injury, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. But it’s important to take action now so you don’t put your benefits at risk. The first step you should take is to contact the experienced attorneys of Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP.

How Preexisting Injuries Affect Workers’ Compensation

In Pennsylvania, an employee may claim workers’ compensation benefits for an injury that takes place during the course of employment. By law, an injury can include aggravation of a preexisting injury or condition, even if that condition has nothing to do with your employment. The key is whether the workplace injury itself made that underlying condition worse.

Some employers falsely tell their workers that having a preexisting injury will disqualify them from collecting workers’ compensation. In reality, the employer has to compensate the employee even if it was unaware of that preexisting injury. Not only may the preexisting injury be unrelated to your employment, it could have been a previous injury from another employer.

Common Examples Of Aggravated Preexisting Injuries

An injured worker can aggravate a variety of different prior injuries, even some the worker didn’t know they had. A few of the most common preexisting injuries that can be made worse by a workplace accident include:

  • Herniated and degenerative discs
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Knee, back, and shoulder injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Torn ligaments

What Does Workers’ Compensation in Pennsylvania Cover? 

Assuming your current accident meets all applicable requirements and you follow the steps to claim workers’ compensation, your employer will have to pay for all reasonable and necessary medical costs related to the workplace injury. That includes emergency room visits, hospitalization, laboratory tests, physical therapy, prescription medication, and more. Your employer will also have to pay wage loss benefits for a current accident that aggravates a previous injury. 

What Is Required To Cover A Preexisting Injury?

If you claim that a current accident has aggravated a preexisting injury, then you have to show that the current accident is work-related. Employers often challenge workers’ compensation claims by saying that the current accident did not happen in the scope of employment. Generally speaking, if the accident was carried out while performing some type of work for your employer, it will be considered eligible for workers’ compensation.

The current accident also has to actually aggravate the preexisting injury. In other words, the preexisting injury cannot simply have gotten worse due to its own natural progression. Your employer may dispute causation and claim that the underlying condition would have deteriorated on its own. This often forces injured workers to go on the defensive against employers and their workers’ compensation insurers.

Tips For Making Sure You Get Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits with Preexisting Injuries

Winning workers’ compensation benefits for aggravation of a preexisting injury isn’t easy. Your employer or their insurance provider may look for ways to undermine your claim. Here are some tips for getting the benefits you deserve:

Follow the necessary procedures for claiming workers’ compensation. Make sure you understand the rules that apply to your claim. One sometimes overlooked requirement for injured workers is to see an employer-selected physician for initial treatment. Failure to follow any of the required steps, or missing a critical deadline, can jeopardize your entire claim.

Document your medical treatment and prior injury. You will need medical evidence to support your claim that the workplace accident made your preexisting injury worse, rather than the aggravation being a natural result of the condition’s progression. This is especially true if your employer challenges your claim or the severity of your prior injury.

Tell your treating physician about the prior injury and current accident. Be sure to notify your treating physician that you had a preexisting injury or condition that was made worse by the current accident. Also let them know all you can about the current accident, specifically the work-related activities that caused you to get hurt.

What Can Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP, Do For Me?

Having a knowledgeable attorney is important to making sure you understand your rights after being injured. Your attorney will make sure all necessary steps are followed to submit your workers’ compensation claim, and that no deadlines are missed. Even if you just have questions about the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation process, don’t hesitate to speak with us.

An attorney can also assist with the important step of documenting your medical treatment and your prior injury. You can expect your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company to challenge your claim that the accident aggravated your injury. You should also expect them to review your records in detail to make a determination of whether they will approve your claim. The review process can be complex, but it can dramatically impact the outcome of your case. You can trust our experienced team to make sure you get the benefits you deserve.

Contact Our Lancaster Workers’ Compensation Attorney

At Nikolaus & Hohenadel, LLP, our goal is for you to get the workers’ compensation benefits that you need. Unfortunately, we’ve seen countless cases of employers trying to take advantage of injured workers by using their preexisting injuries against them. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. If you or a loved one have a preexisting injury that was made worse by a workplace accident, give us a call today.