Aggravating Pre-Existing Injuries at Work – Is It Covered?

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If you’ve had pain from an old injury resurface, there is a possibility that it resulted from your work. Repetitive movements, heavy lifting, and traumatic accidents can all reactivate a pre-existing injury. If this occurs, you are most likely covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.

Workers’ Compensation and Pre-Existing Injuries

In order for an injury to be covered by workers’ compensation, it must have occurred in the course of fulfilling your workplace duties. That means that pre-existing injuries that didn’t result from your job typically are not covered in and of themselves.

However, if your duties aggravate symptoms from an existing condition or previous injury, then it is considered to have resulted from work. As such, you can have it covered.

Pre-Existing Work Injuries

In some instances, it may be a previous work injury that is aggravated. If your case hasn’t been settled, then you should be able to receive more benefits, though you may encounter resistance from your employer’s insurance company in the process.

If it has been settled, it may not be possible to reopen it. Illinois law does allow you to reopen a workers’ comp case if your condition deteriorates within 30 months of closing, but most settlement agreements include a waiver of this right. If this occurs, you generally can’t receive additional benefits, even if your injury gets worse.

A Couple of Examples

To help illustrate how a pre-existing injury might (or might not) be covered by workers’ compensation, let’s look at a couple of examples.

Example 1: Old Shoulder Injury

At the age of sixteen, Jerry hurt his shoulder playing football for his high school. Now, twenty years later, he works in a warehouse where he operates a forklift and moves boxes around. He also works out at the gym as often as he can.

After a particularly strenuous workout, his shoulder injury flares up. While his job frequently requires heavy lifting that could have had the same result, the fact that his injury flare-up coincides with his workout routine makes it unlikely that he will be able to recover benefits.

Example 2: Back Injuries in the Office

Jenny hurt her back in a car accident several years back. After taking a job in data entry at a local office, her back starts hurting again, necessitating a visit to the doctor, who says it may have been activated by sitting at a desk for so long.

Since the pain’s recurrence coincides with her work in the office, she is most likely able to get it covered with workers’ compensation, in spite of the resistance her employer initially gives her.

Getting Help Covering Pre-Existing Injuries

In many cases, you can get coverage for a pre-existing injury if it’s reactivated or aggravated through fulfilling your duties at work. However, just because you’re covered doesn’t mean you won’t encounter resistance from your employer. They may try to convince you that because your initial injury occurred outside of work, it can’t be covered. In these situations, you’ll need an attorney.

Hart David Carson, LLP can help you if you have been injured at work. For more information, contact us today.

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