Being injured at work can be a traumatic experience. There’s physical pain to deal with, along with worries about taking time off the job to recover. In many cases, employees are nervous about the loss of income they’ll experience while they can’t work. Unfortunately, workplace injuries are very common. Private industry employers recorded 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2022.
If a workplace accident has left you with an injury, you may decide to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. But what if you have a pre-existing injury? In this situation, you may be concerned that it will impact your chances of receiving compensation and medical care. Here, we’ll explain what you need to know about your workplace rights after being injured at work and how pre-existing injuries can impact this.
Pre-Existing Injuries and Workplace Rights: What You Need to Know
Here in Virginia, employees who are injured in the workplace may be able to receive benefits under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. Benefits available under the Workers’ Compensation Act are lifetime payment of medical expenses related to your work injury, payment of wage loss benefits, payment for permanent physical impairment, and reimbursement for mileage and other out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the injured worker. You will need to follow a specific process to make a claim for workers’ comp benefits. Having a pre-existing condition will not change the process for how you apply for benefits, but it can make the process of receiving benefits more difficult. Obtaining benefits can be more difficult in the early stages of your case or at trial if you have a pre-existing condition.
After you initially make a claim with your employer’s workers comp insurance company or file a claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, the insurance company will investigate the claim to determine if they will voluntarily agree to pay benefits or agree to award you benefits pursuant to an Award Order. Part of the insurance company’s investigation will be to determine if you had any pre-existing injuries that could play a role in your disability resulting from your work accident. The insurance company will talk with your employer and will want to ask you questions about your medical history before the accident, they may even request a medical records release to get medical records from your doctor.
It is important to know that you don’t have to voluntarily disclose this information to the insurance company. But, if they deny your claim and the case proceeds to trial the insurance company will be able to get access to your prior medical reports in the litigation process. If you have an attorney early in your case, your attorney can help protect your privacy and guide you in how to answer correctly about your medical history and work accident. An attorney can also assist in making sure that any medical records release provided to an insurance company protects your right to privacy, while also allowing the insurance company to see a limited amount of your medical history so they can make a determination if they will agree to pay you benefits. It is always best to consult with an attorney before providing any information to an insurance company. If the insurance company thinks your pre-existing could be playing a role in your disability or need for medical care, they will likely deny your case and you will be required to go to trial to receive workers comp benefits.
How Your Pre-Existing Injury Affects Your Case
Most people have a pre-existing condition of one kind or another, and many people do not even know they have a pre-existing problem until a work injury occurs. Pre-existing problems can be from prior injuries, age, wear and tear or other medical issues. A pre-existing condition is more likely to become a problem in your case if (1) you were actively receiving medical treatment for the condition at the time of the accident, (2) you were experiencing symptoms of the condition before your accident, (3) a pre-existing condition is re-injured by your work accident, (4) your pre-existing condition is affecting the amount of medical treatment you need after your accident, and many other numerous ways. Don’t be discouraged if you fall into one of these categories, you can still be eligible for workers comp benefits.
In Virginia, employers must take employees ‘as they are’ when claiming workplace injury compensation. If your pre-existing condition was made worse or made symptomatic by your work injury, the insurance company would be required to return you to your “pre-injury condition”.
If you’ve been injured in the workplace and have a pre-existing injury, you may be wondering what to do. There’s no doubt that the pre-existing injury can complicate things. However, don’t let that deter you from making a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Here’s what you need to know:
Firstly, it’s important to be honest about your pre-existing injury from the beginning. Lying about this could jeopardize your ability to make a successful claim. Your employer is likely already aware of your pre-existing injury and the insurance company can perform searches through an online database to see if you’ve had prior work injuries or car accidents that resulted in injuries.
Seek Medical Treatment
If you have been injured at work, it’s essential to report it to your workplace and to seek medical treatment. When you’re at the ER, be sure to tell the medical staff that you were injured at work and make sure to tell the doctor ALL your symptoms, no matter how trivial. Having a record of your injuries and the treatment that you receive is essential. This will form part of your evidence for your compensation claim.
Follow the Claims Process
When you’ve been injured, thinking about paperwork may be the last thing on your mind. However, following the process for making a claim correctly is vital. You should never delay reporting your injury. Ensure you use the correct claim for benefits form and send it promptly to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. This will mean that your workers’ comp claim can be processed as soon as possible.
Get Legal Guidance
When you have a pre-existing injury, you may find that your claim for workers’ compensation benefits is rejected. A denial of your claim is incredibly frustrating and at a time when you should be recovering, this situation can bring a lot of stress and anxiety that you don’t need. You may be worried about your finances while you’re unable to work. You’ll also probably be concerned about your ability to work in the future.
In this situation, you need legal advice that you can trust. At Renfro & Renfro, we are highly experienced in dealing with situations just like yours. Renfro & Renfro has been recognized by Super Lawyers for having one of the best workers’ compensation attorneys in Virginia. We will build a robust case to help you win the compensation you deserve and handle all legal aspects of your case so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
Request a Free Consultation with Our Experienced Workplace Injury Lawyers
Here at Renfro & Renfro, we understand how stressful it is to be injured in the workplace. If you have a pre-existing injury, you may be especially concerned about your claim. Seeking professional legal advice from a workplace injury lawyer is the best way to determine your rights.
We offer a free consultation and case assessment for anyone who’s experienced workplace injuries. We’ll work with you to create a strong case for compensation to help you through the claim process. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.