Virginia Workers Compensation for Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
Arthritis is a leading cause of disability in the U.S., with millions of Americans suffering from the medical condition. And millions more have degenerative disc disease in their lumbar or cervical spine. In fact, an orthopedic surgeon once told me that everyone has degenerative disc disease of some type. When a work injury aggravates, exacerbates, worsens, or accelerates your arthritis or degenerative disc disease, you have the right to file a workers compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation claims based on the aggravation or acceleration of arthritis or degenerative disc disease are often misunderstood. That’s because most workers’ compensation cases involving a pre-existing condition like arthritis or degenerative disc disease are denied initially by the insurance company. But you shouldn’t give up and take the insurance company’s word for it. The aggravation of pre-existing arthritis or disc disease in a workplace accident is considered a new injury under Virginia workers’ compensation laws.
Because it can be difficult to obtain all the benefits you’re entitled to when you have pre-existing arthritis, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will pursue your entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. Email Corey Pollard using the contact form to your right or call 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614 to schedule a free consultation in Virginia. We’ve helped hundreds of injured workers in Virginia obtain awards and lump sum workers compensation settlements.
Arthritis and Workers Compensation
Arthritis refers to joint inflammation. It is the term used to explain many types of conditions that can affect your joints, the tissue surrounding your joints, and connective joint tissue.
Common types of arthritis include:
- Osteoarthritis. This is the most common type of arthritis. It is associated with a degeneration and breakdown of cartilage and the narrowing of your joint space. You can experience osteoarthritis in almost any joint in the body, but it most commonly impacts the hands, shoulders, spine, knees, and hips.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or lupus, for short)
- Fibromyalgia. This is common in individuals suffering from arthritis.
Arthritis symptoms can develop gradually or happen suddenly. Common symptoms include swelling, pain near the joint, limitation of range of motion of the affected joint, and stiffness.
Placing weight on an arthritic joint can cause increased pain and damage, further limiting an injured worker’s recovery time and decreasing his or her activity levels.
Degenerative Disc Disease and Workers Compensation
Degenerative disc disease is a medical condition that affects millions of people. Nearly everyone experiences this condition because our spinal discs degenerate and lose the ability to absorb shock from external forces as we get older. At least one study shows that the average age when DDD is diagnosed is in the mid-30s for both men and women.
A workplace injury to the spinal disc can aggravate, accelerate, and exacerbate degenerative disc disease, causing serious low back and neck pain and limited range of motion.
Even worse, degenerative disc disease can cause pain that radiates from your back to your legs and feet, or from your neck to your arms and hands. The extent and severity of your DDD symptoms depend on the extent of nerve root damage it causes.
Degenerative disc disease is a “catch all” term that applies to many types of back conditions, including a slipped disc, ruptured disc, torn disc, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, nerve impingement, or herniated disc. Depending on the severity of your degenerative disc disease after a work accident, you may require conservative treatment and even surgery.
Diagnosis degenerative disc disease may be difficult. Your treating physician may diagnose it after performing a physical exam, interviewing you, and reviewing your x-ray and MRI reports.
Work Injuries that Can Cause an Aggravation of Arthritis or Degenerative Disc Disease
Some jobs require you to complete physical tasks that make it more likely that you’ll aggravate a preexisting condition such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease. For example, construction work, assembly line work, typing, and other jobs requiring manual labor can exacerbate or accelerate your condition.
You’re also more likely to aggravate your degenerative disc disease if your job requires repeated lifting, twisting, turning, bending, or stooping. Any job that can cause a neck or back injury (and that’s most of them), can aggravate degenerative disc disease. But our workers compensation lawyer can help.
Aggravation of Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease and Workers Compensation in Virginia
If you remember only one thing from this article, it should be that you can receive workers compensation benefits including temporary total disability compensation, permanent partial disability, and lifetime medical treatment for the aggravation of a preexisting condition like arthritis or degenerative disc disease. These aggravations are compensable even if your preexisting condition was not work related.
Your employer must take you as it found you. This means that workers’ compensation covers work-related injuries that aggravate a preexisting condition, even if you were already susceptible to future injury. Further, the employer and its insurance carrier may be liable for spine surgeries, joint replacements, and arthroscopic surgeries needed sooner because of the work-related injury, even if surgery was already being discussed.
But what about apportionment? What if some of my problems are related to the work injury, but some preexisted the accident? This is a common question. The new work-related injury doesn’t have to be the sole cause of your disability and work restrictions, but it must be a material factor in the worsening of your preexisting injury.
Despite the law, don’t be surprised if your employer and its workers comp insurance company fight your claim once arthritis or DDD is diagnosed. They will argue that your current pain and work restrictions are related to your preexisting condition and baseline medical condition, not the aggravation caused by your work injury.
Workers comp lawyer Corey Pollard can help you with this type of case. We’ve won many workers compensation hearing where the injured employee had a history of multiple surgeries and aggravated the preexisting injury in his or her new job. We persuaded the Workers’ Compensation Commission to award benefits despite preexisting arthritis and degenerative disc disease. And we want to help you with your workers’ comp arthritis claim.
Building Your Work Injury Case Based on Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease
When preparing your workers compensation case or workman’s compensation appeal, we work closely with you, your family members, and your health care providers to determine the following:
- Your work status prior to the injury (i.e. whether you were capable of performing your regular job before workplace accident)
- Has your arthritic condition or degenerative disc disease worsened because of the work injury?
- Has there been an actual physical change in your condition due to your work injury (i.e., does the MRI, x-ray, or CT scan show an objective change in your condition)?
- Has an asymptomatic preexisting condition become symptomatic because of the work injury?
- Have your symptoms changed, increased, or worsened because of a work injury?
Many employees have arthritis or degenerative disc disease but don’t know it due to the lack of symptoms. But suddenly they have symptoms following an injury due to heavy lifting, a car accident, or some other industrial accident. If this describes you, we can help you get benefits while obtaining supportive medical opinions.
Sample Cases Awarding Virginia Workers Compensation Benefits for Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease
1. Lewis v. Balfour Beatty Construction Group, JCN VA00001118605 (March 28, 2017). In this case the claimant alleged an injury by accident to his back and lumbar spine arising out of and in the course of his employment. The defendants disputed the claim, alleging that the claimant was no longer disabled as a result of the work accident. In support of this defense, the defendants introduced testimony regarding the claimant’s three prior back injuries and lumbar spine surgeries. By focusing on the claimant’s ability to return to work in a construction setting following the third surgery, until he re-injured his back while moving two buckets of drywall, we were able to get the claim for lifetime medical treatment and ongoing wage loss benefits awarded despite preexisting degenerative disc disease and arthritis.
2. Sechrest v. Winner Services Inc. & Liberty Mutual Insurance Corp, JCN VA00000951213 (May 27, 2016). In this case the employer sought to terminate wage loss benefits based on the treating physician’s light duty release. In support of their defense, the employer introduced evidence regarding the claimant’s prior back injuries and prexisting arthritis and degenerative disc disease. We were able to defeat the employer’s application for hearing, which allowed our client’s benefits to continue, by working with his physicians and focusing on the new symptoms and limitations caused by the recent work injury.
Contact an Experienced Attorney to Discuss the Aggravation of Arthritis or Degenerative Disc Disease Due to a Workplace Accident
Because of the time limitations regarding the filing of a workers compensation claim against your employer and its insurance carrier, you must act promptly. Speak to an experienced workers comp attorney about how your work injury aggravated your preexisting arthritis or degenerative condition well before the statute of limitations. We would love to help you with your claim. Contact us through our website or by calling 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614. We charge no fee, unless we win. And our Social Security disability lawyer can help you get approved for SSDI benefits if your arthritis or degenerative disc disease prevents you from returning to work.
We represent injured workers in Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg, Roanoke, Fairfax, Loudoun County, Alexandria, Arlington, and Prince William County.