PRE-EXISTING VS. AGGRAVATION OF INJURY
My client injured his lower back while lifting metal piping, working as a welder.
He properly gave “Notice” of his work injury to his employer who reported the same to their workers’ compensation carrier, who in turn denied the claim, indicating that he had a pre-existing work injury.
As my client could not work due to the current work injury, he had to apply for short-term and long-term disability benefits. As he knew that he truly injured his back at work, he wanted to pursue both wage loss and medical workers’ compensation benefits.
I filed a Claim Petition that was assigned to a workers’ compensation judge, who recently ruled in my client’s favor after about nine months of hard-fought litigation.
As part of the litigation, my client testified that he worked for this company for 24 plus years and admitted that he did suffer a prior low back injury years ago, was out of work for approximately 3 months, then returned back to work full-time, full duty work, even working a lot of overtime up until the day of his most recent injury. He further testified that he loved his work and if able, wanted to return to his job.
In conjunction with his testimony, his treating doctor testified that even though his before and after work injury MRIs were fairly consistent, his other diagnostic tests, and subjective complaints all confirmed that he in fact suffered a new work injury. The diagnosis was an aggravation of his pre-existing low back injury with numbness and tingling into both legs, also known as radiculopathy.
The workers’ compensation carrier hired a doctor who examined my client one time and testified that my client did not suffer a new work injury, and that all of his problems were because of his pre-existing work injury. On cross-examination by me, he did admit that my client worked full time, full duty prior to the most recent work injury and that my client did complain to him of his symptoms, which were entirely consistent with the complaints he gave to his treating doctor, and what he testified to before the workers’ compensation judge.
No one from the employer testified in opposition to my client. After Briefs were filed by both lawyers, the workers’ compensation judge issued a Decision and Order granting the Claim Petition, awarding my client ongoing wage loss and medical benefits dating back to the date of injury with interest on all back due workers’ compensation benefits.
In his Decision and Order, the workers’ compensation judge specifically noted that he found my client credible as he freely admitted that he had a prior work injury, but that he worked full duty, full time, even with overtime up until the most recent work injury. The judge also found my client’s treating doctor to be more credible than the doctor who only examined my client one time.
Even though the litigation process was lengthy and hard fought, it was worth it, as my client now has the benefits he so deserved.