Although the median number of missed work days due to occupational injuries was eight in 2015, many employees find that their injury keeps them from working for much longer. That may be the case when a pre-existing condition is made worse due to their activities or an accident at work. The workers’ compensation laws pertaining to pre-existing conditions are fairly clear. But filing a claim for medical care, weekly benefits while off work, or rehabilitation expenses can still be a challenge. If you are wondering whether you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits based on a pre-existing injury or medical condition that has been worsened due to your work, be sure to read this guide thoroughly. For legal assistance, contact an experienced lawyer who knows the law.
What is a pre-existing condition?
A pre-existing condition or illness is a one that existed and impacted your physical or mental function prior to your work injury. It’s part of your medical history that may or may not be related to your employment. For instance, you may have injured your knee in a previous workplace incident or you may have arthritis in your knee: both may have caused pre-existing conditions. But the nature of any pre-existing condition could impact your claim.
Can injured workers receive benefits for pre-existing injuries?
Iowa law is clear: employees are not entitled to receive benefits for pre-existing injuries or illnesses unless that condition is made worse by their employment or a workplace injury. For example, you cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits for arthritis diagnosed five years ago. But if it is medically proven the responsibilities of your job aggravated your arthritis and made it more severe so it affected your ability to work, you could have a claim. Your employer can only be held responsible if your physical condition is made worse due to activity or injuries that occur during your work.
How might a pre-existing condition impact a claim?
Iowa’s definition of “injury” is a fairly broad one. Any health impairment, unrelated to normal build-up and tear-down of bodily tissues, is considered to be an injury. This means there is a wide range of conditions eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, when a pre-existing condition is used by an employee to deny benefits, an employee must prove their prior condition was made worse by their work or by an injury at work. In other words, an old injury or other condition that feels worse now due to age, on expected progress of symptoms, would not support a claim.
In addition, if you had a previous work injury and received permanent disability benefits, that could effect the permanent disability benefits you could receive when you have a new injury to a similar part of your body. Most likely, any benefits you might be eligible to receive would be reduced to account for previous benefits awarded.
Some injured employees may find that their employer (and its insurance company) may be reluctant to cooperate when pre-existing conditions are involved. That is why it’s so important to work with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer when considering such a claim.
Should I file a claim for a pre-existing work injury?
With any work injury, it’s vital to document everything with your employer and healthcare providers to ensure your rights are protected down the line. This information can help your lawyer determine whether you might be able to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits due to aggravation of a pre-existing injury. Because every case is different, your lawyer will be your best resource for information and should be your first call if there is any problem getting your claim accepted as a work-related injury.
Navigating the law can be tricky, especially when it comes to personal injury and workers’ compensation. We’re here to help. To find out more about us or to schedule a consultation, contact our law offices today.