North Carolina Pre-Existing Conditions and Workers’ Comp Claims
Despite most businesses being required to carry workers’ compensation insurance in North Carolina, many of their insurers fight hard to deny valid claims. This is especially true in cases where an employee’s job duties worsen a pre-existing injury or illness.
Contrary to what many workers believe, pre-existing conditions can be covered under North Carolina workers’ compensation laws. In general, employers shouldn’t ask for (or have access to) your entire medical history. That said, you cannot hide a pre-existing condition when filing a workers’ compensation claim, either. While not every pre-existing condition may qualify, there are plenty of cases in which they are covered.
If your employer has denied your workers’ compensation claim by arguing that your injury was a pre-existing condition, you should speak to a North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer right away. The legal team at Stewart Law Offices can evaluate your case, let you know what your legal options are, and help you fight the benefits you’re owed.
There are tight deadlines to file workers’ comp claims. To maximize your chances for recovery, call or contact our Charlotte office today for a free consultation.
Can I File for Workers’ Compensation with a Pre-Existing Condition?
If you had a pre-existing condition before being hired, then your employer allowed you to join the company without prior knowledge of your injury or illness. Workers’ compensation is not required to cover your pre-existing condition, but may be responsible if the condition was worsened by a job-related accident. This is sometimes called an “aggravated” or “re-aggravated” injury.
For example, chronic back pain is a common ailment among many adults. But if a worker slipped and fell over a box at work and herniated a disc, he or she could still be entitled to benefits despite having a weak back.
In addition, some pre-existing conditions like heart disease can complicate an employee’s recovery. Let’s imagine that the same worker with a herniated disc has a job that puts even mild pressure on the heart. He or she may need extra time to recover from the disc injury to avoid aggravating the heart condition.
Can My N.C. Workers’ Comp Claim Be Denied for a Pre-Existing Condition?
Your employer and its workers’ compensation insurance provider will most likely try to deny your claim if it’s related to a pre-existing condition. The question is whether the denial is legitimate. There are clear rules about when workers’ compensation insurance does or does not apply for pre-existing conditions.
If you file a claim related to a pre-existing condition, you’ll have to show how a workplace accident made your pre-existing condition worse, or how your normal workplace duties worsened your condition to the point that you can no longer work. Strong medical evidence will be essential to support your claim. For this reason, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced N.C. workers’ compensation lawyer.
Ideally, you should talk with an attorney before submitting your workers’ compensation claim. You have 30 days to officially notify your employer of the injury or illness, even if they know about it already.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions That May Qualify
Despite what employers and their insurance companies may say, there are a host of pre-existing conditions that qualify for workers’ compensation coverage. Some of these include:
- Back injuries: Back problems are among the most common workplace injuries, whether they’re pre-existing conditions or not. This is particularly true for workers in physically demanding industries like construction or manufacturing. It’s very easy for back injuries to become re-aggravated, and it can happen with little to no notice. The law around back injuries has developed such that they may be easier to prove than other injuries.
- Joint injuries: Pre-existing issues with your knees, shoulders, or other joints can easily be re-aggravated on the job. This can occur due to a sudden accident or simply by exerting yourself over an extended period of time. Either way, workers with pre-existing joint injuries should speak with an attorney to see if they’re eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Repetitive strain injuries: Repetitive stress injuries build over time and are usually the result of years of minor trauma or overexertion. The most well-known of these conditions is carpal tunnel syndrome, which often impacts workers who perform computer-intensive jobs that involve typing or data entry. Though symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and similar conditions may take years to emerge, workers can still receive N.C. workers’ compensation benefits.
- Arthritis and other degenerative diseases: Degenerative conditions like arthritis develop over time. But just because they don’t show up immediately doesn’t mean that workers cannot qualify for workers’ compensation in North Carolina.
Certain medical illnesses: Diabetes, cancer, and other pre-existing illnesses may not be directly related to your job, but you could still obtain benefits if they make if difficult to return to work. Don’t accept a denial if you’re in this situation.
What If I Was Denied for a Pre-Existing Condition?
Don’t panic. You can work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will strive to negotiate a fair settlement on appeal if your claim has been denied.
A lawyer can help you collect additional documentation to substantiate your injury, refer you to another doctor for additional tests, and request a hearing with the North Carolina Industrial Commission if necessary.
You can help your claim, too. Follow all doctor’s orders to treat the injury, attend rehabilitation appointments, and avoid activities that could make the condition worse. Failure to follow a doctor’s recommendations is a key reason for workers’ compensation denials, especially with pre-existing condition claims.
Get Help for Your N.C. Pre-Existing Injury Claim from Our Workers’ Comp Lawyer
A skilled workers’ compensation attorney can be a key partner in your pursuit of workers’ comp benefits in North Carolina. Companies often try to take advantage of employees’ unfamiliarity with workers’ compensation laws. Having an attorney by your side helps level the playing field.
At Stewart Law Offices, a Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyer can fill out all of the necessary paperwork, file the documents on time, and assist with any disputes that may arise with your employer or its insurer. If needed, we’re always prepared to appeal your case to the N.C. Industrial Commission and represent you during mediation and at all hearings. Should your case go to trial, we have researchers and expert witnesses we can call upon to show how your pre-existing condition was aggravated at work. Put simply, we can take care of everything to help position your claim for a successful appeal.
Pre-existing condition claims for workers’ comp may be more complex, but success is certainly possible for many deserving North Carolinians. Don’t be intimidated by a denial or by a claims representative who makes you feel like you’re out of luck. Trust Stewart Law Offices to fight for the justice you deserve.
Worried about how to pay for a lawyer? You don’t have to be. At Stewart Law Offices, we take cases on a contingency fee basis. You won’t be responsible for any upfront costs, and our lawyers only collect a fee if we obtain a successful result on your behalf.
Call today to arrange your free consultation.