Let’s face it: an occasional injury is a part of life. Whether you threw out your back while working in the garden 10 years ago, or you were in a car accident, at some point or another most people get hurt.
Just because you’ve been hurt in the past does not mean you can’t receive workers’ compensation benefits if you’re hurt again—on the job. You may still be entitled to Louisiana workers’ comp benefits even if you hurt the same part of your body that you hurt in the past.
Here’s what can happen: Jane hurt her lower back in a car accident 10 years ago. She had a surgery and went through physical therapy at the time. Several years later, Jane’s at work lifting a box. As she lifts the box, she feels pain in her lower back. She reports the accident to her supervisor and files a workers’ compensation claim. The insurance company denies her claim, saying she cannot get benefits because she hurt her back years ago in the car accident.
Can the workers’ comp insurance company do this?
The short answer is no! Under Louisiana workers’ compensation law, an aggravation of a pre-existing injury is considered a new injury. Put another way, if Jane was not having back pain before her work accident, and started having back pain after her work accident, she is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for hurting her back.
Even if she was having pain before her work accident, she may still be entitled to benefits if her pain got worse. The insurance company cannot use her past injury as a way to avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits.
But here’s a situation where a pre-existing injury could work against you: When a new employee is hired, they’re often given a questionnaire asking about prior injuries. It is very important for the employee to truthfully answer this questionnaire. If an employee fails to disclose an old injury on the form, and that worker later re-injures the same body part in a work accident, the worker may have forfeited their right to workers’ compensation benefits.
So if Jane listed her prior back injury at the time she was hired, she is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If she failed to report her prior back injury on this form and re-injured her back, she could be barred from receiving workers’ compensation benefits—and be cut out of the pay for lost wages and covered medical treatment that will protect her financial future.
You can still argue that you should receive benefits even if you failed to list a prior injury. But this gets much more complicated.
It is very important that you contact an experienced workers’ comp lawyer, like an attorney at Workers’ Compensation, LLC, if your company is saying you’re not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because you failed to list a prior injury.
Remember, just because the insurance company tells you something, it does not mean it’s true!
Because you may be entitled to benefits even if the insurance company says you’re not, you want a strong representative on your side who can stand up to them—and help you get what you need to move on with your life.