How Prior Injuries Affect Workers’ Compensation Claims
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How Prior Injuries Affect Workers’ Compensation Claims

Prior injuries affect workers’ compensation claims in two related ways: denial of benefits because of a pre-existing medical condition and aggravation of the condition. If you have a prior injury, fighting for workers’ compensation benefits could pose a challenge due to the insurance companies. Luckily, Minnesota workers’ compensation law protects workers who do have pre-existing conditions when they get injured.

Denial of Benefits Because of a Pre-Existing Condition

Many workers receive notices of denial of benefits from insurance companies because of the workers’ pre-existing medical conditions or prior injuries. As soon as an insurance company learns that you injured your back 20 years ago, it will quickly deny you benefits for your current back injury.

Insurance companies argue that someone’s claim for a back injury relate to their old injury and not be work-related. Good workers’ compensation attorneys know that just because you have a prior injury does not mean that the current injury is the same. Your current injury may be completely unrelated to your prior injury, or your work conditions may have aggravated the old injury.

In Minnesota, work activities only need to be a substantial contributing factor to your current injury or medical condition to be compensable. (See Joyce v. Lewis Bolt & Nut Co., 412 N.W.2d 304, 307 (Minn. 1987).) As a result, usually you can challenge a denial of benefits issued because of your pre-existing condition.

Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

Workers commonly need to file workers’ compensation claims because they aggravate a pre-existing medical condition or a prior injury. It does not matter if the original condition or injury was work-related or not. If work conditions were a substantial contributing factor to the aggravation, you can receive benefits. The insurance company and your doctor do not separate out the harm caused by the original injury and the harm from the aggravation – you will be compensated for the entire disability you have right now. (Vanda v. Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., 218 N.W.2d 458 (1974).)

Even injuries caused by long-term stress or strain in the workplace, causing aggravation of a medical condition, qualify you for benefits. In a well-known court case, a woman had a non-work-related problem with her big toe. Her job required her to walk more than 15 miles every day, and the medical issues with her toe increased to the point that she was partially disabled. She received benefits even though her original condition was not caused by work. (Gillette v. Harold, Inc., 101 N.W. (2d) 200 (1960).) Today, attorneys refer to repetitive stress injuries as Gillette injuries after the woman’s last name.

Need help getting workers’ compensation for your aggravation of a prior injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.