I wish the facts as set forth in this piece were rare and uncommon, but I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t certain physicians in Alabama whom the workers’ compensation insurance carrier sends injured workers to see because they KNOW what the doctor will do and say. Physical Therapy will be ordered, the injured worker will receive some treatment and eventually be told that they need surgery–but the injury actually was preexisting and not related to their job accident.
I could not count the number of times I have had a client come in who was injured at work, but was informed that workers’ comp was refusing to accept liability because 20 years earlier the worker had hurt the same body part while playing High School baseball or in an automobile accident. The workers’ comp adjuster claims that the injured workers’ disability is due to the workers’ pre-existing condition and therefore not covered under Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Laws. This defense rarely works.
In Alabama, if a worker has a pre-existing condition which has not stopped them from being able to adequately perform their job duties, the law views the condition as being irrelevant. If you can do your job duties and a job accident worsens an underlying condition, then workers’ compensation has to pick up liability for the worsened condition. This is because under Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Statute, a job injury does not have to be the sole, or even the main, cause of an injured workers’ disability; the job injury just has to be a contributing factor in the disability. Thus, if a work injury combines with or aggravates a pre-existing condition (which has not prevented the worker from performing their job duties in a normal manner) to cause a disability or death, then the workers’ compensation insurance carrier is liable for said disability/death. As the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals stated:
“An actual aggravation of an existing infirmity, caused by an accident in the course of employment is compensable even though the accident would have caused no injury in a normal person.” Reeves Rubber, Inc. v. Wallace, 912 So.2d 274, 280 (Ala.Civ.App.2005).
I have had actual discussions with insurance adjusters in which the adjuster was attempting to explain that my client’s leg injury was really related to the fracture they suffered playing High School baseball 10 years earlier and not due to the fall from a roof top they suffered at work last week. If you hear this “defense” from an adjuster, you are most likely being given the run around and it is time to get a lawyer. If you have been told that liability for your work injury was being denied due to a pre-existing, don’t hesitate to give us a call and talk to one of the experienced Alabama Workers Compensation Attorneys at Powell and Denny today.
Powell and Denny: We Work When You Can’t
Offices in Hoover, AL and Huntsville, AL
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