Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | November 22, 2016
Many of us experience the occasional aches, pains and other symptoms that result from prior injuries and chronic medical conditions. While these symptoms generally do not impact your day-to-day abilities, on-the-job accidents can aggravate these conditions, making it difficult to work or perform certain functions required in your position.
If you have been involved in an accident on the job that aggravated a pre-existing condition, contact a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer right away. The fact that you suffer from a prior injury or chronic health condition could impact your ability to obtain benefits.
What Are Pre-Existing, Chronic Health Conditions?
Chronic health conditions can affect every area of your life, making it difficult to enjoy hobbies and activities while also impacting your job abilities.
Unfortunately, according to the latest research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as:
- 1 in 2S. adults suffer from a chronic health condition
- 1 in 4 adults have two or more types of ailments.
These conditions may result from past injuries, diseases or genetics. They include:
- Degenerative disk disease
- Soft tissue injuries and nerve damage
- Asthma and COPD
- Heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.
The above conditions generally require medication and periodic treatment to avoid flare ups. In some situations, the condition may have no impact on your ability to work or perform certain functions that are a part of your job.
However, these conditions can be aggravated by work-related accidents or by exposure to harmful substances, resulting in temporary or permanent disability.
Will a Pre-Existing Condition Keep You from Getting Workers’ Compensation?
When on-the-job accidents and injuries occur, a pre-existing condition can complicate your ability to obtain benefits. However, you can recover benefits when the aggravation is caused by a work accident.
Under Georgia workers’ compensation law, an injury or condition is compensable only if there is an accidental injury that arises out of and in the course of your employment.
These types of accidents include:
- Slip and fall accidents due to wet floors or uneven flooring materials
- Lifting Injuries
- Falling from heights such as ladders or scaffolding
- Being struck by or against an object
- Work-related motor vehicle accidents
- Repetitive stress injuries caused by heavy lifting or overuse
- Inhalation of toxic substances.
While you would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as the result of any of the above, these benefits would only cover you for your aggravation. If your aggravation ceases and you return to pre-injury level, you will not have rights to further workers’ compensation benefits.
Pre-Existing Condition Related To Prior Workers’ Compensation Claim
In some cases, you may have a current workers’ compensation claim and the injury is related to a previous work-related injury. These often involve soft tissue injuries such as muscle, tendon and ligament strains, sprains and tears, as well as back and neck injuries involving herniated disks.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), once an injury like this occurs, it is generally more susceptible to re-injury in the future, particularly if not given adequate time to heal.
There are generally two types of work-related accidents that can aggravate this type of pre-existing condition:
- Acute injuries due to sudden trauma such as accidents involving falls, twists or blows to the body
- Overuse injuries as the result of repetitive stress, poor workplace ergonomics or improper lifting techniques. These include bursitis and tendinitis, which develop gradually over time.
Anytime you suffer a job-related injury, regardless of how minor it may appear, it is important to report it to your employer or supervisor immediately and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Follow all of your doctor’s instructions closely, including any restrictions on work or recreational activities. Be sure to file a workers’ compensation claim for benefits in the appropriate time limits.
If you filed a previous workers’ compensation claim as a result of an injury, you may file an additional claim if you re-injure the same body part.
Pre-Existing Conditions Not Related To Prior Workers’ Compensation Claim
The same types of injuries you suffer at work can also occur off the clock, while at home or engaged in sports or family activities. These include soft tissue injuries, head, back and neck injuries as well as nerve damage and permanent impairments to the bones or muscles such as severe fractures and sprains or those that do not heal properly.
Some employees may suffer pre-existing conditions due to genetics or outside factors not related to workers’ compensation claims such as asthma, COPD or lung disease, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Factors that may aggravate these types of conditions include:
- Smoke inhalation
- Exposure to toxic chemicals or substances
- Repeated exposure to dangerous, traumatic or highly stressful situations
- Repetitive stress and overuse.
Under the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act, these pre-existing conditions may be covered if you can provide clear and convincing evidence that they were aggravated by an on-the-job accident or due to workplace conditions.