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Leep, Tescher, Helfman and Zanze

An injured California workers’ duty to reveal pre-existing conditions and injuries

When you have a workplace injury, the process of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits should be rather simple.

All bets are off, however, when you have previous injuries (on or off the job) or pre-existing health problems that are even remotely related to your current injury.

Why do pre-existing conditions and old injuries matter to a workers’ comp claim?

If your work activity caused an aggravation of an old injury, a brand-new injury in the same location as an old injury or aggravated a pre-existing condition, you are still entitled to coverage under workers’ compensation.

The trick, however, is proving that your injury is actually work-related. If you’re left with a permanent impairment, you can bet that your employer’s insurance company will try to demonstrate that your limitations are the result of your pre-existing condition — not your work activity.

What happens if you try to hide your prior medical issues?

The insurance company can — and will — dig deep into your medical history. It’s very difficult to hide the truth these days with the proliferation of digital medical records, and workers do get caught when they lie.

Take, for example, the case of a 45-year-old warehouse worker who was just arraigned on multiple felony charges for insurance fraud. He claimed injuries to his left ankle, back and foot after a misstep at work — but hid the fact that he had a prior claim with a different insurance company (and a different job) 10 years before that also involved his back, left foot and ankle (along with his knees and neck) following a work-related motor vehicle accident.

When you have a new injury to a body part that previously suffered some damage or you have a pre-existing health problem that could be related to your current injury, expect your workers’ comp claim to be challenging. An attorney can guide you through the claims process and advocate for your rights.