How Will a Pre-existing Condition Affect My Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Virginia Workers Compensation Attorney Corey Pollard Helps Employees who Suffer an Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition Due to a Workplace Injury Maximize the Value of Their Case and Obtain Medical Care
Millions of Americans will suffer an orthopedic injury at some time in their lives. An orthopedic injury refers to trauma to the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and soft tissues of the body.
The number of workers’ compensation claims involving pre-existing conditions and prior injuries is high. And this makes sense. Once a person has suffered an orthopedic injury, he or she is more likely to suffer another injury at a later date because their body has been weakened by the initial injury or pre-existing condition.
After receiving a report of a workplace accident, the employer and its insurance carrier will start their investigation. A major part of the investigation is trying to determine whether the injured worker had any pre-existing conditions or prior auto accidents. Preexisting physical problems can help the insurance company reduce their damages and even avoid liability in some work injury cases.
This article is for those of you with pre-existing conditions or prior workers’ compensation claims who have been hurt on the job and want to know your rights under Virginia workers compensation. We explain the law with regard to the aggravation, exacerbation, or acceleration of a pre-existing condition due to a work accident and what you and your attorney can do to win your case despite pre-existing conditions making litigation more difficult.
If you have questions about your case, or are looking for one of the best workers compensation lawyers Virginia for aggravation of a pre-existing condition claims, contact Corey Pollard today for a free consultation. We help injured employees obtain top dollar workers compensation settlements throughout the state, including those in Richmond, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Roanoke, and Fairfax.
Call us at 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614 or complete the online form to your right. We will protect your workers’ compensation rights.
Workers’ Compensation Law Regarding Pre-existing Conditions in Virginia
If you prove that you suffered a compensable injury by accident arising out of and in the course of your employment, and that this injury worsened your preexisting condition, then you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in Virginia. This is best shown through an example.
The most common workers’ compensation situation involving a pre-existing condition is an old back injury, with pre-existing knee and shoulder injuries also being common.
You may be a nurse who suffered a herniated disc in a slip and fall accident many years ago. After undergoing back surgery and a few months of physical therapy, you were released to full duty work.
You continued working as a nurse for several years until you hurt your back again while transferring a patient from a wheelchair to her hospital bed. Now you have back pain again and your treating physician wants you to undergo a lumbar fusion.
The insurance company will likely argue that it is not responsible for medical treatment for your back or for the proposed surgery because of your pre-existing condition (i.e., the prior back injury and surgery). But the insurance company does not get the final say in the matter; the Workers’ Compensation Commission does.
If you are able to prove that you suffered a compensable injury that aggravated, accelerated, or exacerbated your pre-existing condition, then you can receive temporary total disability benefits for the time you are out of work recovering and a lifetime medical award for all reasonable and necessary treatment related to the injury that worsened your pre-existing condition
Now that you know the law, let’s take a look at what you can do to help your workers compensation lawyer prove that your compensable injury aggravated, accelerated, or exacerbated your pre-existing injury and condition.
Tell Your Attorney About All Prior Injuries and Pre-existing Conditions
Bad facts in litigation are one thing, surprises are another. If you tell your attorney about all of your pre-existing condition, prior injuries, and past workers’ comp or personal injury claims, then he or she will be able to craft and develop your case so that you have the best chance possible of a favorable resolution.
When meeting with your attorney, tell him about all prior physical problems that you have had. This includes the following:
- Traumatic events where you suffered an injury requiring immediate medical attention
- Motor vehicle accidents where you sought limited medical attention or were not hurt at all
- Sports injuries
- Medical conditions for which you have sought treatment, even one time
- Injuries or pain for which you have sought acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, or physical therapy
We also recommend telling your attorney about all prior claims and litigation you’ve been involved in. This will help you remember any past injuries.
You should also provide your attorney with all documents you have referencing these prior injuries or claims and contact information for the medical providers with whom you have treated. Your attorney can review these medical documents to find facts that distinguish your prior injuries and symptoms from your most recent workplace accident and current symptoms, which is critical for winning your workers’ comp claim when you have a preexisting medical condition.
Preparing for Your Workers Compensation Deposition or Trial When You Have a Preexisting Injury
Most defense attorneys will take your deposition before the workers compensation hearing takes place. A deposition is a meeting where the defense attorney asks you questions and you answer under oath. And a hearing is like a trial where both parties get to present evidence and a deputy commissioner, or judge, decides the issues in dispute.
You can use the below tips for testifying when you have a pre-existing condition when giving deposition testimony or undergoing examination at the hearing:
- Talk about your ability to work before the recent workplace injury. If you had recovered from prior injuries, or were capable of working full duty before the injury despite your pre-existing condition, then you have a better chance of proving that the recent injury is responsible for your disability from work. If, on the other hand, you were restricted to light duty or required accommodation because of your pre-existing condition, the Commission is unlikely to award your case.
- Talk about your ability to exercise or participate in hobbies and activities outside of work prior to the recent workplace injury. Again, the more you can show that this recent injury changed your life and is responsible for your ongoing problems, the better. If you were exercising (running, lifting, etc) or participating in hobbies (going to church, playing with kids, etc) despite your pre-existing condition, but are unable to do those things since the workplace accident, you have a better chance of winning your pre-existing injury claim.
- Describe how the accident happened in detail. It’s important to show that you suffered a compensable injury. The more specific you are with how you were hurt, the better for your pre-existing condition workers’ comp claim. And the more severe your accident, the more likely it is that the Commission will award your claim. It will determine that the new injuries you suffered were so severe that they explain why your pre-existing condition became more symptomatic and now requires additional medical treatment.
- Show how the workplace accident worsened your pre-existing condition. Describe the change in your symptoms and treatment since the accident. For example, make sure you explain whether you suffered an increase in pain, whether the pain is different (stabbing v. dull v. burning), whether you have new symptoms (back pain that now radiates into your legs or neck pain that radiates into arms), whether pain that was intermittent (you had it every now and then) has now become constant, and whether you have had to increase your medication or start taking it regularly.
Though these things may seem like minor distinctions, they can go a long way toward helping you get the benefits you need under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Free Initial Consultation with an Experienced Richmond, Virginia Workers Compensation Lawyer for Your Aggravation of a Pre-existing Condition Claim
Though it may seem counterintuitive during litigation, you should never minimize, hide, or avoid talking about your pre-existing physical problems. A good workers’ comp attorney will be able to craft a narrative at trial to let you tell your story and explain how the recent accident worsened your condition. We always recommend bringing up preexisting problems and past injuries first, so that you can explain and distinguish them. This builds your credibility in the eyes of the court and jury. And credibility is the key to winning many cases.
In addition to helping you testify in a case involving pre-existing conditions, our attorney will work with your treating physicians and expert medical witnesses to show that your prior injury had healed or that the recent injury had worsened your pre-existing condition from a medical standpoint. This requires extensive knowledge of the medicine behind treating orthopedic injuries and the ability to communicate your case and what you are trying to prove to medical professionals.
Our two-phase approach: working with you -the injured worker – to develop a story of how the injury affected your prior condition, as well as doctors and health care providers to show how your clinical examinations and objective diagnostic tests, such as MRIs, have changed, gives you the best chance of winning your case and proving that the work injury aggravated your pre-existing condition.
Call now for a free consultation. We can meet you anywhere in Virginia.