What About Pre-Existing Injuries?
It is a common myth that having a pre-existing injury or condition will automatically bar you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. This is not the case. Rather, if a new work related injury aggravated a pre-existing injury, then you must still be made whole, put back to your former condition. If your condition did not prevent you from working before the new injury, then it should not prevent you from working after the new injury. If it does, then you are still entitled to compensation for your medical care and lost wages.
Cause of Injury
If you want to receive workers’ compensation for your current injury, then you must demonstrate that it resulted from a job related incident. If it simply an old injury flaring up, this doesn’t count. You have to show that a work related event exacerbated that injury, and this can be difficult.
Example: A worker with a pre-existing back injury has been working for five years with her current employer. In her sixth year of employment, her back pain grows worse so that she can no longer work. If she wants to receive workers’ compensation for this, she has to show that a work related accident caused the worsening back pain or that the back injury was aggravated by the work.
If you cannot demonstrate either of these points, then your claim will be denied.
How To Handle Your Claim
Pre-existing conditions can cause an employer or insurance company to quickly deny your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. It is a common mistake for employees to simply accept this denial, when pursuing the matter could result in a successful claim. Insurance companies cannot legally deny your claim just because you have a pre-existing condition, and if you believe that your claim was unfairly denied, an attorney can help you evaluate the options in front of you. These options will include requesting an appeal through the North Carolina Industrial Commission via Form 33 and filing a lawsuit in the appropriate court.
The best way to present a strong case is to maintain records of your pre-existing medical condition and the timeframe of when work began to exacerbate the injury or condition and how you are affected in your day to day life. The more detailed your documentation is, the stronger your case will be and the easier it will be for you to demonstrate your losses.