Being injured at work is already stressful, but what happens if you have an injury at work that makes a condition you already have worse? Will you be able to get workers’ compensation for the new injury?
Workers’ Comp and Existing Conditions/Injuries
It’s hard enough when you get injured at work to know what you have to do – you’re in pain, you need medical treatment, you’re worried about your job and your family, and you’ve never had to do this before. If you had an existing injury or condition already that the injury at work made worse, you may be even more worried. What if the existing injury means that the injury at work doesn’t count?
Good news: if you have a pre-existing condition or previous injury that is made worse by a work accident, it counts as a new injury for workers’ comp. You are still entitled to the medical benefits and other benefits (temporary or permanent) that you would receive for a new workers’ comp case.
Here’s an example scenario: You have a knee that’s been hurting for the last several years and your doctor says that you’ll need a total knee replacement in a few years. You’re OK right now without one. But one day at work, you slip on some grease that wasn’t cleaned up properly. Your knee is now messed up, and you need the total knee replacement right now, instead of in a few years. Because the injury at work caused the need for the total knee replacement, workers’ comp will cover the cost of the total knee replacement and the care for the knee for the rest of your life.
If you already have a pre-existing condition and are injured at work, and after the injury, you can function as you did before the accident, the workers’ compensation claim is over. Say you have shoulder pain that makes it difficult to raise your arm above your head. You pull your shoulder at work, and can’t use that arm for several weeks while you recover. If you’re able to use the arm again like you did before the injury, even though you can’t raise it above your head still, then the claim is over. You would get workers’ compensation benefits for the medical costs of getting your arm from the state of not being able to use it to the state of being able to use it as you did before the accident, as well as benefits for if you had to be out of work or work a lower-paid job while you were healing.