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Workers' Compensation for those Suffering from Aggravation of a Pre-existing Injury

Not all workers' compensation cases involve a completely healthy individual who gets injured out of nowhere at work. Oftentimes these cases involve workers who have preexisting health conditions. Despite the myth that employers do not have to cover workers who suffer from preexisting conditions, you may still be entitled to coverage under the workers' compensation system.

Postal worker recovering from pre-existing injury

In these kinds of situations, understanding medical terminology can be confusing, especially when the work-related injury is an aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Attorneys who practice in the area of workers' compensation, like the ones at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (also known as GEKLAW), can be essential in understanding how these terms can affect your workers' compensation case.

Examples of Preexisting Conditions

A preexisting condition is defined as any injury or illness that affected a worker prior to a workplace accident or exposure. Examples of preexisting conditions that are covered under the workers' compensation system include:

  • Arthritis
  • Heart Disease including high blood pressure
  • Herniated Discs
  • Mental Health Disorders
  • Joint Issues
  • Gastrointestinal Issues

Aggravation v. Exacerbation

The terms "aggravation" and "exacerbation" are often used interchangeably to describe a situation in which a pre-existing injury or other medical condition is affected by a new injury. However, the difference between the two terms is important.

An exacerbation results when a pre-existing condition is made worse temporarily by a new injury but will eventually return to the same physical condition as before the injury. On the other hand, an aggravation occurs when a pre-existing condition is made worse permanently by the new injury.

However, a knee or leg injury can occur in any workplace when an employee attempts to lift or move something heavy without proper technique, if they are repeatedly turning and twisting while moving or lifting something heavy, or even in a simple slip and fall accident.

Workers Compensation for Pre-existing injury

What Does the Difference Mean to Your Case?

Regardless of whether you had a pre-existing condition before your work-related injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation. However, the difference between an exacerbated injury and an aggravated injury is one that can affect the value of your case.

If there is in fact a permanent aggravation, more than a simple flare up or temporary worsening of symptoms, then in most cases financial compensation should be paid.   While a typical exacerbation scenario might require a few doctor's visits and/or physical therapy, an aggravation can require injections, serious surgeries, and many doctor's visits.

The difference between these two terms is crucial in a workers' compensation scenario. For example, GEKLAW has represented a number of employees with pre-existing degenerative disc disease making them more prone to back injuries, who later experience a work-related injury due to lifting heavy materials and suffer a herniated disc in the back.   In this situation, GEKLAW has been successful in proving a permanent aggravation and recovering workers' compensation benefits for our client. 

Benefits That You Might Be Entitled to Recover

If you sustained an aggravation of a preexisting condition, you may be entitled to recover the cost of medical treatment needed because of the aggravation, including new prescriptions, physical therapy, and even adaptive devices. These benefits can be crucial to a worker who is experiencing a new or worsened disability due to the aggravation, which is why it is important to be clear on whether you are experiencing a temporary exacerbation, or a permanent aggravation.

In these situations, legal help can be essential to determining whether you have a claim for an aggravated condition, building a strong case, and obtaining the right medical evidence.  Our team of attorneys at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein (GEKLAW) helps workers in California do just that and guide you through the legal process so that you are informed of your rights concerning aggravation of a preexisting condition or injury

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