Workers who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of whether or not they had a pre-existing injury. However, it is important to note that you cannot seek compensation for your pre-existing injury unless the injury was worsened or aggravated as a direct result of the workplace accident. It is generally accepted that if the workplace accident causes a permanent aggravation of a condition that is pre-existing, or if the workplace accidents necessitates the need for further care for the pre-existing condition, workers’ compensation insurance is responsible for paying for it. If the aggravation is temporary, the worker will be entitled to temporary benefits; if the aggravation is permanent, the worker may be entitled to permanent workers’ compensation benefits.
Consider the following scenario: A worker, who has previously injured his or her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee, and received surgery for the injury, slips and falls at work. The knee, which was not causing any pain prior to the workplace slip and fall, is twisted during the accident, and the worker suffers severe pain. Imaging shows that the ACL, which, remember, had previously been correctly, has suffered a small tear. The injury would be covered under workers’ compensation insurance because, despite the pre-existing nature of the injury, the condition was clearly aggravated as a result of the slip and fall.
However, using the same example above, if the same worker slipped and fell and hit his elbow, not his knee, he could not seek compensation for any previous harm caused to the knee, but would be able to seek compensation for the new injury to the elbow. In order to recover compensation for any workplace injury, a worker must prove that the injury would not have occurred or been aggravated but for the workplace accident.