What Happens When You Have A Pre-Existing Condition and Are Hurt At Work?
Pre-existing conditions are a subject of controversy when it comes to insurance coverage. For sure, you’ve heard the issue come up as a concern for those covered under the Affordable Care Act. However, what happens with pre-existing conditions when it comes to work injuries? Should you be concerned?
There are a few things you need to know about pre-existing injuries or conditions as they apply to New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws. First, the case law supports the idea that employees are not disqualified from receiving benefits because they have pre-existing conditions.
Exacerbation v. Aggravation of Pre-Existing Condition
In Kelly v. Alarmtec, Inc., the court stated that “an employer takes his employee as he is, handicapped by any physical or mental impairments, whether or not observable, which, when subjected to accidental work-related injury, may result in greater disability than would follow if such impairment were not present.”
Subsequent case law has followed this same proposition. Depending on the nature of your injury, there’s a chance that your condition could be exacerbated or aggravated. What’s the difference between the two? Some say that an exacerbation is more of an increase in symptoms of a disease. For example, someone suffering from COPD might be adversely affected in a poorly ventilated factory.
In the meantime, it isn’t hard to imagine how easy it could be to suffer an aggravation to an assortment of orthopedic and soft tissues injuries. If you already suffer from a herniated disc, you know the pain is real. Despite all precautions, you could bend over and pick up some boxes and aggravate your existing back problem.
In order to successfully pursue a claim when you have a pre-existing injury, you must prove that your condition has been exacerbated or aggravated. It essentially goes without saying that you won’t be compensated for the original injury itself.
Pre-Existing Injuries and Total Disability
New Jersey employers are encouraged to hire employees regardless of any prior disabilities. For some, this may appear to be a risk factor. After all, there is a concern that someone with a pre-existing condition could become further disabled.
New Jersey’s Second Injury Fund provides benefits for some totally disabled workers. More specifically, the program is designed to assist those where the “cause of disability was subsequent to a prior disability rendering the worker permanently and partially disabled.”
Under the provisions of the Second Injury Fund, someone with pre-existing injuries may receive total disability payments if work accidents ultimately result in the permanent disability. The court examines the disability as a whole.
If you were injured at work, the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone would like to provide you with legal advice. If your employer denied compensation as it relates to your pre-existing condition, we can help. Contact us to learn more.