Question

In Ohio, how do I show my job is worsening an existing condition?

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Jerald A. Schneiberg - Workers' Compensation - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Jerald A. Schneiberg

Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A.
Euclid, OH
Phone: 216-289-4740
Fax: 216-289-4743

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Answer

Ohio employees are fortunate in that the state’s workers’ compensation system recognizes “substantially aggravated” pre-existing conditions as a category of work injury. You can make a claim based upon your work duties aggravating an existing condition, but the proof of injury must be measurable and objective. You cannot just report that you are experiencing more pain and additional symptoms than previously.

Some forms of objective medical evidence that could help your case include:

  • Diagnostic findings
  • Test results
  • Clinical findings

It’s important that these forms of evidence be precise to rule out the possibility that they simply establish a pre-existing condition (which is not covered by workers’ comp), rather than one that has been substantially aggravated by on-the-job duties. Test results need to be compared to pre-injury results, when available. Imaging documents such as MRIs are not effective in a claim without a clinical explanation or a previous MRI to compare it to. And a note from a physician — even a specialist — asserting that a client’s injury is due to substantial aggravation of a pre-existing condition may not be accepted as valid medical evidence.

Another way in which pre-existing conditions are recognized within the state’s workers’ comp system is through their impact on a separate injury. Let’s say you had diabetes as a pre-existing condition. Your work injury required surgery, and the diabetes was interfering with the healing from the surgery for your injury. In that case, the state would consider the diabetes a “co-morbidity condition” and provide benefits to treat it during the time period that you are recovering from your injury. Once you are considered ready to go back to work, benefits for the diabetic treatment would also cease.

It is important to have a skilled workers’ compensation attorney at your side throughout a claim involving a substantially aggravated pre-existing condition. If you are injured repeatedly over time (several different years, let’s say), and the injury impacts the same parts of the body, your employer may try to claim that you have a pre-existing condition that is not covered by workers’ comp or that your injury should be considered part of your original claim (which would substantially reduce its worth). An experienced workers’ comp lawyer will help you gather the medical evidence to demonstrate whether the claim is truly a new injury or is a documented aggravation of a pre-existing condition.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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