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Pre-Existing Injuries and Worker’s Comp

May 16, 2022

By Thomas McCutcheon

Sometimes employers like to argue that an injured employee had a pre-existing condition as if that matters. Sometimes injured employees do have a pre-existing condition. It makes absolutely no difference in a worker’s compensation case as long as the employee was doing their job in a normal fashion before the accident.

I was talking with an insurance adjuster earlier today who started to make that argument when I explained to him that the Court would likely not hear evidence about a pre-existing condition because the law is quite clear on this point.

Where litigants and judges find difficulty in on-the-job injury cases are in those circumstances when there is a subsequent accident to the same part of the body at a new employer. In those cases, the Court does have to determine whether or not the second injury is a new injury, an aggravation of a prior injury, or a recurrence of an old injury. A recurrence occurs when the second injury “does not contribute even slightly to the causation of the disability.” If the second injury is an aggravation of the first injury, the employer at the time of the aggravating injury will be liable. In the case of a recurrence, the first employer will be liable.

One of the good things about worker’s compensation is that even though the doctors in Alabama are chosen and paid by the employer (he who pays the piper calls the tune) most doctors will agree that aggravation or exacerbation of a pre-existing condition occurred if new, worse, or different symptoms appear at or around the time of the injury. Remember though, that on average discs that herniate don’t really herniate immediately, maybe only 2% of the time. The vast majority of herniations manifest themselves over a period of weeks.

If you are in a worker’s compensation case and your employer is telling you that you had a pre-existing condition, but you know it was made worse by the accident, you have a case.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!


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