Few employees start a job in perfect health. Workers may have hereditary conditions, previous injuries, mental or physical disabilities, or chronic illnesses. Employers are legally prevented from discriminating against workers for pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is a medical condition, such as an illness or disability that exists before a work injury occurs.
Employers are only responsible for the worsening of your physical condition if an injury is sustained in the workplace. It is in employers' best interest to try to prove your pre-existing condition caused your injury and not the something in the workplace. Then they can deny your workers' compensation claim and save the company money.
The best way to receive the compensation you need after a workplace injury is to know your rights. Here are some examples of types of pre-existing conditions that can affect your workers' compensation claim.
Prior Workplace Injury
If you have previously filed a workers' compensation claim for an injury on the same part of your body, you may receive increased benefits from your current claim. Either way, your employer must still pay medical bills for any treatment of your current injury. You will also receive disability benefits that cover your wages for the time your injury prevents you from working.
Please take care to note the distinction between a second workplace injury and an aggravation of a previous injury. You can consult your doctor, your employer, and an attorney to determine if you should file an aggravation or worsening claim or if you should fill out a new workers' compensation claim.
Prior Injury Unrelated to Work
This refers to an injury that is sustained outside of work before you are injured at work. For example, if you have previously broken fingers while playing volleyball during your time off, the injury could be aggravated by repetitive computer use at work.
In this case, you will likely only receive compensation for the worsening of your injury, not for the injury itself. Inform your doctor of all pre-existing conditions so he or she can properly diagnose your injury. Your doctor will determine if your injury is temporary or permanent, which can affect your compensation.
If you already had an illness, but something at work made it worse, you probably won’t be compensated for the aggravation of a previous illness. The law requires that a disease must be contracted in the course of employment to be covered by workers' compensation. However, you may be able to get compensation if you can prove that your illness was made more severe by abnormal work conditions.
Mental or Psychological Conditions
Most mental conditions are not covered by workers' compensation. You must be able to prove that the mental or psychiatric problem is caused primarily by your work. For example, a traumatic workplace injury can possibly lead to anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Job-related stress can lead to a heart attack.
In a case like this, you will likely have more success seeking a Social Security disability claim rather than a workers' compensation claim.
Pre-Existing Unrelated Condition
If your pre-existing condition had no effect on your injury, your previous condition is irrelevant to your workers' compensation claim. For example, if you had a knee injury from a skiing accident and you injured your back lifting something heavy at work, your knee injury has nothing to do with your workplace back injury.
Sometimes it seems like the law and your employer have more power than you do, but that isn't true. You just need experienced legal advice to help you understand your situation and decide on the best path forward. Consult a workers' compensation lawyer to help you know your rights and receive compensation for an injury sustained on the job.