In a word: YES. A recent ruling in Virginia involving the Fairfax County School Board highlights how pre-existing conditions can impact a workers’ compensation claim decision.
A worker at the school was injured in a fall, hurting her knee. Her physician assigned her a 37 percent impairment rating in her lower left, which led the Virginia Workers’ Comp commission to assign her permanent partial disability loss benefits.
However, when the impairment rating was assigned the fact that the woman had previously received a total knee replacement for an injury not related to work was not taken into consideration. The woman’s employer argued that the award was erroneous because her previous knee replacement surgery had not been taken into consideration.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the employer in this case, noting that an employee can only recover benefits for the amount of impairment caused by the workplace accident – but not for any pre-existing impairments unrelated to the incident.
In this situation the worker was unfortunate enough to sustain a workplace injury to a part of her body that had been injured in the past. Because she had already gone through a successful knee replacement and her doctor did not account for this fact, she now will not receive compensation for her new injury.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, please take the time to talk to an experienced Virginia workers’ compensation attorney. A good claims lawyer will help you navigate the workers’ comp minefield, making sure that you are not taken advantage of by a stingy employer or insurance company.