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Workers’ Compensation Resources

What is a Pre-existing Injury?

An injured worker is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if the on-the-job injury is an aggravation of a prior injury or condition (both are called pre-existing conditions).

A worker is not eligible for workers’ comp benefits if the only injury is the pre-existing one; he must have sustained a new injury.

Workers' compensation pre-existing injury

Pre-existing injuries can include herniated disks, broken bones, torn ligaments, and other relatively obvious injuries. Other conditions may be more closely related to general physical health, such as age-related spine degeneration or arthritis.

It’s not uncommon for an insurance company to wrongfully deny a legitimate claim because of a pre-existing medical condition. Many times, an injured worker simply gives up on the claim; however, insurance companies cannot immediately deny an on-the-job injury claim based solely on a pre-existing condition.

Workers’ compensation laws were enacted to make the employer-worker injury claim process less adversarial. Over time, insurance companies responsible for compensating injured workers became huge corporations with stockholders to answer to, profit margins to meet, and executive salaries to pay. As a result, the once non-adversarial system has become more adversarial than ever.

Insurance companies look for any means to deny your injury claim. The insurance adjuster assigned to your claim will thoroughly investigate your medical background and look for any evidence of falsehoods concerning pre-existing conditions.

Trying to be greedy in a claim ultimately backfires. It’s better to tell the truth. If questions on the doctor’s admitting form ask if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, you must answer truthfully. If the medical staff or doctors ask you, you must be honest with them. Failing to disclose a pre-existing condition can be grounds for denial of your claim.

Be clear when discussing your current pain and discomfort with the doctors that it’s very different from any residual pain and discomfort you may have from a pre-existing injury. Let them know you did not have symptoms before your current injury. If you tell the doctors your current symptoms are no different than those you’ve been experiencing since your previous injury, your claim will likely be denied.

Giving detailed information during your medical exams is very important. Clearly explain that you weren’t having pain or discomfort from a prior injury when your new injury occurred. Describe any changes in the type of pain you’re feeling, including its frequency, intensity and duration. Tell the doctor how the new injury is affecting your daily activities in a way it hasn’t since your prior injury.

Most important don’t give up. Get a workers’ compensation lawyer with experience to help you.