You Are Entitled To Workers’ Comp No Matter Your Pre-Existing Conditions
If job activities have worsened your pre-existing condition, you can file for workers’ compensation coverage if they meet the requirements that make them eligible (Maryland Code, Labor & Employment §9-501). However, obtaining this compensation can be challenging, and insurance companies may deny your valid claim. If you are unable to obtain your deserved compensation, our attorneys at Cohen, Snyder, Eisenberg & Katzenberg, P.A., will fight for you.
Pre-existing conditions can impact a worker’s claim – but what does that entail?
If a pre-existing condition is aggravated or made worse by a work injury or work exposure, the injured worker is entitled to Worker’s Compensation benefits. So long as an injury is partially related to the work accident, the Employer/Insurer is responsible for the entirety of the treatment. By law, the payment of medical care cannot be apportioned, or split up, between the Employer/Insurer and the injured worker.
Examples of pre-existing conditions aggravated at work include:
- Injured worker is of advanced age and has arthritis in their knee. However, after lifting a heavy object on the job, feels a pop, and is diagnosed with a torn ligament. A need for surgery may be the responsibility of the Employer/Insurer.
- Injured previously suffered a back injury and required surgery. While working for the employer, the worker falls off of a ladder and experiences worsening back pain. The fact that the worker has developed new symptoms likely indicates the claim would be compensable and the employer and its insurer would be responsible for additional medical care.
Can workers avoid these issues?
Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can already seem like a complex process. Additional challenges from a pre-existing condition might be frustrating. However, you can take steps to reduce these issues.
It can help to keep detailed documentation of:
- Their pre-existing condition, including their medical records and past treatments
- A copy of the report to their employer about the incident or work injury
- A record of their pain and symptoms from the new work injury
Having a record on hand can provide critical information for an injured worker to clarify how the new accident aggravated their pre-existing condition. However, even with clarification, it is always beneficial to obtain counsel to ensure your rights are protected.
Filing A Workers’ Compensation Claim With A Pre-existing Condition
Many insurance providers may argue that your pre-existing condition was not worsened as the result of job-related activities. By shifting the blame, insurance companies can deny valid compensation claims. If an insurance provider denied your rightful claim, our attorneys will step in to help.
Workplace-aggravated pre-existing conditions may include:
- Lower back injuries that have worsened after lifting heavy objects in the workplace
- Existing shoulder, knee or joint injuries that have worsened by job-related repetitive stress
- Previous partial hearing loss made worse through work in a noisy work environment
- Sudden pulling or pushing that leads new, intense pain in joints or muscles that were previous bothersome
No Discrimination Allowed For Pre-existing Condition(s)
You cannot be denied workers’ compensation benefits because of a condition that you had when you started your job. The Workers’ Compensation statute views a worker “as they are.” So, if pre-existing knee condition worsened because a worker slipped on ice, even if that worker had a prior knee surgery, it does not automatically bar you from benefits.
Proving Worsened Pre-existing Conditions Were Caused By Work Activities
Like other workplace injury claims, cases involving aggravated pre-existing conditions often rely on the opinions of the treating physicians. A physician must indicate, with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the workplace exposure or accident aggravated the pre-existing conditioning, at least in part, causing the need for medical treatment. Our lawyers will gather the facts and documentation to prove that a workplace incident worsened your condition.
Real-Life Examples Of Pre-existing Conditions Claims
A Professional Football Player’s Back Injury
In Pro-Football, Inc. v. Tupa, the Court of Special Appeals found that a kicker who hurt his back when he “landed awkwardly” while warming up for a preseason game had a compensable, work-related injury, despite having a pre-existing diagnosis of chronic degenerative disk disease. The pre-existing condition did not prevent him from fulfilling his professional duties, while the second injury made kicking impossible.
The court said that “[a]lthough Tupa’s chronic condition would have continued to deteriorate absent the [later] injury, the jury needed only to find that the accidental injury contributed to the disability, not that it was the sole cause.”
An Electrician’s Pre-existing Condition And Subsequent Intervening Event
The Court of Appeals in Maryland analyzed a claim involving a subsequent intervening event. The issue of first impression concerned the flip side of the pre-existing condition case – whether a later injury unrelated to work that happened subsequent to a compensable work injury precluded the person from collecting benefits for worsening of the compensable injury.
In Electrical General Cor. v. Labonte, the high court answered this question: no, not necessarily.
An electrician who injured his back during work received temporary total disability and permanent partial disability benefits. Later, his back pain was aggravated in a traffic stop when an officer “grabbed him and pushed him down onto the vehicle …”
The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission granted his request for additional permanent partial disability benefits after the subsequent intervening event of the police stop. In its award, the Commission said that the disability was due to the work-related injury and the “subsequent condition.”
If Your Claim Is Denied, Discuss It With Us In A Free Consultation
If you were injured on the job but your employer or its workers’ compensation insurer attempts to deny your claim, do not give up. You may still be entitled to coverage and compensation.
From our offices in Baltimore, Bel Air, Frederick, Essex, Glen Burnie and Towson, we help people throughout Maryland. Call 443-529-0795 to schedule your free consultation or send us an email with your case details. We are available 24/7 and will return your call as soon as possible.