The Impact of a Prior Injury on a Current Workers’ Compensation Claim
When you’ve been hurt on the job, even if the injury clearly seems work-related, you can expect your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to look for any reason to deny your claim. One of the more common arguments is that your injury was the result of some prior occurrence, such as a car accident. Maybe you were a driver or a passenger in a motor vehicle some years ago and sustained injuries to the same part of your body. Will that disqualify you for workers’ compensation benefits for your current injury?
As a general rule, you are not prevented from seeking workers’ compensation benefits just because you have suffered injury to the same part of your body in a prior accident, whether it’s a car accident or even a work-related accident. The key, though, is that you must have been considered to have fully recovered from your prior injury. If your doctor cleared you to return to work, any subsequent injury will be treated as a new injury. If, however, you were still under the care of a physician for the prior injury at the time of the new work-related injury, the Workers’ Compensation Board will need to assess your injury and determine the extent to which it’s a new injury or an aggravation of an old injury.
In a case we handled a few years ago, a woman suffered an injury to her back at work. Her employer initially denied her application for workers’ compensation benefits, saying she had been in a motorcycle accident when she was 13 and that her injuries were a result of that accident. We were able to show that the injuries sustained in the motorcycle accident had been fully resolved and that the work-related injuries were new.
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