It is a common misconception that the existence of a pre-existing, similar injury will bar you from recovery with respect to your personal injury or workers’ compensation claim. The truth is that your medical history and history of similar pre-existing injuries matters much less than you may think.
Legally speaking, the wrongdoer or otherwise negligent party must take the victim as they find them. What this means is that you may still be able to recover for personal injuries resulting from an individual’s negligence, or for an injury sustained on the job despite any prior similar injuries or accidents.
For starters, a workers’ compensation claim does not factor in fault when determining whether an injury can be compensated. With respect to a personal injury claim, if any pre-existing conditions that you have suffered with for an extended period of time are exacerbated as a result of another’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation that would otherwise restore you to your pre-accident state, regardless of whether you may have been fragile or more vulnerable to such an injury than another person.
If you have experienced an exacerbation of a pre-existing injury as a result of another person’s negligence, or following a job related accident, it is essential that you contact an experienced Greenville attorney to represent you and ensure that you are fully and fairly compensated for your accident-related injuries.
Applicable South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Laws
As set forth by South Carolina Code SECTION 42-9-35, Evidence of preexisting injury or condition requires that:
(A) The employee shall establish by a preponderance of the evidence, including medical evidence, that:
(1) the subsequent injury aggravated the preexisting condition or permanent physical impairment; or
(2) the preexisting condition or the permanent physical impairment aggravates the subsequent injury.
(B) The commission may award compensation benefits to an employee who has a permanent physical impairment or preexisting condition and who incurs a subsequent disability from an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment for the resulting disability of the permanent physical impairment or preexisting condition and the subsequent injury. However, if the subsequent injury is limited to a single body part or member scheduled in Section 42-9-30, except for total disability to the back as provided in Section 42-9-30(21), the subsequent injury must impair or affect another body part or system in order to obtain benefits in addition to those provided for in Section 42-9-30. (C) As used in this section, “medical evidence” means expert opinion or testimony stated to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, documents, records, or other material that is offered by a licensed health care provider.
(D) The provisions of this section apply whether or not the employer knows of the preexisting permanent disability.
(E) On and after the effective date of this section, an employee who suffers a subsequent injury which affects a single body part or member injury set forth in Section 42-9-30 is limited to the recovery set forth in that section.
Put more simply, your prior health does not prevent you from filing a workers’ compensation claim for injuries that you may have suffered in the course and scope of your employment if a work-related injury happens to:
- Exacerbate a pre-existing injury or prior condition;
- Cause new and unexpected flare ups of an old injury; or
- Worsen your physical health as a general matter.
Even if your underlying, pre-existing condition happens to be degenerative in nature, chances are that you will still be entitled to compensation following a job-related injury.
However, it is important to note that your right to recovery will hinge upon written confirmation from a medical professional the pre-existing condition was aggravated by the subsequent injury, or that the subsequent injury is aggravated by the pre-existing condition. In other words, you must be able to acquire documentation from your treating healthcare provider that your present arthritis or other degenerative issue was aggravated by the subject accident to “a reasonable degree of medical probability.
Why Does the Workers’ Compensation System Allow Compensation for Aggravation of Exacerbation of Pre-Existing Injuries?
We all experience injuries and the general degeneration of our physical condition as a part of life and as a result of growing older. However, such injuries and degenerative conditions typically do not result in serious physical restrictions, constant and lasting symptoms, or the need for surgical intervention, and they do not keep people from working. While the lasting symptoms of a prior injury may be frustrating and unpleasant, generally they are manageable. However, it doesn’t take much to turn an annoying physical injury into a far more serious injury that will interfere with a person’s ability to work without appropriate treatment. The law recognizes people with pre-existing injuries that are aggravated by their jobs may be able to return to work if they are provided appropriate treatment for the work-related exacerbation.
Reach Out to a Greenville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer for a Consultation
If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you have suffered a serious injury at work, but you fear that a similar pre-existing injury or complaint may inhibit you from pursuing a worker’s compensation claim, you should contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., so they can help you to recover the compensation to which you are legally entitled.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.