Can I Collect Workers’ Compensation for a Pre-Existing Condition?

April 28, 2020

Most employees in New Jersey are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits for any injuries they sustain on the job. Depending on the type of injury a worker suffers, their employer’s insurance company may provide compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, disability, vocational rehabilitation, and/or death benefits. As long as it occurred at work or due to work-related activities, a worker can collect benefits for just about any type of injury.

In New Jersey, as in most states, employees may collect benefits even if they have a pre-existing condition. While workers may not be able to collect for unrelated prior injuries, they may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation for pre-existing injuries that were aggravated, or worsened, by their job.

Aggravation of a Previous Workplace Injury versus New Injuries

Workers who sustain new workplace injuries, which are unrelated to any prior work-related injuries, are eligible for the cost of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment, in addition to wage replacement for missed time from work. Those who previously injured the same body part at work may still collect benefits, however the award will be reduced to an amount that reflects only the increase in impairment. Therefore, workers whose pre-existing conditions are worsened due to their most recent workplace injury may collect only for the portion attributable to the new injury.

Injuries Unrelated to Work

Pre-existing conditions that occurred outside of work or that were unrelated to work are only compensable to the extent that they were worsened due to the new injury. If a medical expert determines that a worker’s pre-existing condition was aggravated due to their new work-related injury, the worker may collect only the amount necessary to compensate for the worsening of their condition.

Insurance companies will often deny claims for pre-existing injuries on the basis that they were age-related or otherwise related to general physical health, and not caused or worsened by work. However, under New Jersey law, employers may not deny a Workers’ Compensation claim solely because it concerns a pre-existing condition. Employees are entitled to collect benefits for pre-existing injuries that were worsened by job-related activities whether the pre-existing injury was work-related or not.

New Jersey Second Injury Fund

Employees with permanently disabling injuries may be eligible for compensation through the Second Injury Fund. The Second Injury Fund compensates claimants for the percentage of the overall disability not attributable to the workplace accident. Therefore, if an employee had a measurable disability prior to employment and they become permanently disabled due to a second work-related accident, they may collect disability payments from their employer only for the amount of injury caused by that workplace accident, the Second Injury Fund would cover the rest.

Vineland Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Advocate for Employees with Pre-Existing Conditions

Your pre-existing injury does not necessarily preclude you from collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits. Let a Vineland Workers’ Compensation lawyer at DiTomaso Law help you with your case. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Vineland, Mt. Holly, and Camden County. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 856-414-0010.