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Can You Get Workers’ Compensation for Pre-Existing Injuries?

August 12, 2021 by Joseph A. Moro
Injured worker on the knee with pre existing condition.

Although most employees who are injured on the job qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, eligibility for workers’ comp can become complicated when an employee’s work injury relates to a pre-existing injury or condition. If you have a pre-existing injury or condition, it’s essential to understand your rights to workers’ comp if you suffer further harm in the course of your work.

Since 1985, the workers’ compensation attorneys of Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA have worked diligently to advocate for the rights of injured workers throughout northeast Ohio. We fight for Mahoning Valley residents because our clients are our friends and neighbors. Each of our attorneys grew up in the community, attended nearby schools, and worked in the region before coming to our firm. We know the employers, doctors, and hospitals that we encounter in the workers’ compensation cases we handle. These roots and relationships help us secure favorable results on behalf of our clients.

Contact us today for a free, confidential case review to learn more about how our experienced Ohio workers’ compensation attorneys can help. We’re ready and able to seek maximum workers’ compensation benefits for Ohioans who have pre-existing injuries.

What Is Considered a Pre-Existing Injury?

An injury or medical condition is considered “pre-existing” when the injury or illness appeared prior to a work accident. A few examples of common pre-existing injuries in workers’ compensation cases include:

  • Arthritis
  • Herniated discs and other back injuries
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Brain injuries
  • Knee and other joint injuries
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Mental health conditions

Are Pre-Existing Conditions Covered Under Workers’ Comp?

Workers’ compensation benefits can cover some pre-existing conditions. Specifically, you might be entitled to workers’ comp if your job aggravates or worsens your pre-existing condition or injury.

An aggravation typically constitutes a new injury, even when it relates to a pre-existing condition or injury. In this context, aggravation applies to something that causes you to suffer a temporary or permanent increase in any disability or limitation, whether physical or mental. It also describes conditions that require new medical treatment or a change to your treatment plan.

If you suffer an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover the related new or changed medical care. If the aggravation causes you to miss work, you might receive temporary partial or total disability benefits to replace some of your lost income. If the aggravation results in a permanent disability, you could be entitled to permanent benefits.

Can You Be Denied Coverage for a Pre-Existing Condition?

If you aggravate a pre-existing condition at work, your employer or its insurer might try to deny workers’ comp coverage by arguing that you’re experiencing pain and other symptoms that you already had from your pre-existing condition. Your employer or its workers’ comp insurer may investigate your prior medical history to find evidence that there’s no work-related difference in your condition.

Even if you have new symptoms, your employer and its insurance company might deny coverage because they claim that you’ve only suffered an exacerbation of your pre-existing condition or injury. By an exacerbation, they mean a flare-up or worsening of the severity of symptoms you were already experiencing. The other side may argue that an exacerbation, unlike an aggravation, doesn’t constitute a new injury and therefore is ineligible for workers’ compensation coverage.

Can Employers Ask About Pre-Existing Conditions?

In short, it depends. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) limits the kinds of questions employers can ask and the circumstances in which questions are allowed.

Under the ADA, employers aren’t allowed to ask prospective employees certain questions about their pre-existing conditions or other medical issues. For example, employers may not ask if you have a disability or for details about a visibly apparent disability. Furthermore, a prospective employer may not ask you questions about your medical history or require a medical exam before offering you a job. Instead, an employer may only ask you whether you can perform the job’s duties or how you would do so.

An employer may ask employees medical questions or require a medical check only after extending a conditional job offer if every person in that job met the same requirements. If an existing employee requests accommodations at work, an employer may ask questions about the accommodation and their condition or require an exam. Finally, if the employer has a good-faith basis to believe that an employee may be incapable of performing their duties successfully or safely, they might also have grounds to ask about that employee’s condition.

Get Help from Our Ohio Workers’ Comp Lawyers

Employers and workers’ compensation insurers often try to use allegations of pre-existing injuries and illnesses to deny the benefits that workers deserve. Our Ohio workers’ comp law firm can help you fight for the full financial benefits you’re owed after suffering a work-related injury or aggravation of a pre-existing condition by:

  • Explaining your legal right to workers’ compensation benefits for work injuries related to a pre-existing condition
  • Investigating your claim, including recovering evidence from the scene of any workplace accidents and working with your doctors to understand how the accident affected your pre-existing condition
  • Filing your workers’ compensation claim with your employer or filing a formal claim and request for hearing if you were denied the benefits you need and deserve
  • Advocating your case in a workers’ compensation hearing if necessary
  • Fighting to get you the compensation you need after a work injury, including negotiating for a settlement where appropriate

If you aggravated a pre-existing condition on the job, you need to understand your rights under the workers’ compensation system. Contact the Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers of Heller, Maas, Moro & Magill Co., LPA today. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your options. We’re ready to help you pursue the workers’ comp benefits you’re entitled to, even if you had a pre-existing injury or illness.

About the Author

Joseph A. Moro
The son of a Youngstown steelworker who worked himself in steel mills as a young man, Joseph A. Moro is acutely aware of the challenges that working people face and the dire impacts that injuries and impairments can have on them and their families. After he earned his undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University and his law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, Joseph has largely dedicated his practice to handling workers' compensation and personal injury cases. He is a fluent Spanish speaker who is certified as a Workers’ Compensation Specialist by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) as well as a certified Veterans Affairs Representative. He currently serves as the OAJ Regional Representative for Youngstown-Warren and on the OSBA Workers’ Compensation Specialty Board.

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