Suffering a job injury is bad enough, but what happens when you get hurt again while you are recovering? It’s frustrating, and you are probably wondering how it will affect your workers’ compensation benefits. In many situations, you can be covered for the second injury. It depends on the cause. In either case, your second injury should not negatively affect your benefits for your original injury.
If your secondary injury is caused by your first injury or caused by your treatment or recovery for that first injury, then it should be covered. If you have surgery for a work-related back injury and suffer an infection following that surgery, your treatment for the infection should be covered because it was caused by your original situation. The same is true if you have a severe allergic reaction to medication, if there is an error during your surgery or if you develop hypertension.
Other examples are a trip or fall on crutches, or an elbow injury from using crutches. If you were on crutches because of your work injury, then the argument exists that your second injury was caused by your first injury. The same argument can apply to an injury to another body part during physical therapy. If you are in therapy for a knee injury but hurt your back during your treatment, you can argue that it stems from that first injury.
A completely unrelated second injury won’t be covered, but if it makes your original injury worse, that part should at least be covered. If you are recovering from back surgery and get in a car accident, any increase in the severity of your back injury should be covered.
There are so many ways to connect a new injury to an old one, and these connections are supported by the law. However, your employer or the insurance company might not see it that way. They might be quick to offer you advice, such as using Medicare or your group health insurance for the secondary injury. The insurer will try to deny benefits because it’s their job to do so. They make more money if they pay out less. It’s not personal, but you should be ready for it.
All of the nuances in this area of law can be confusing. One main purpose of our workers’ compensation system is to help employees recover and get back on the job. It’s not fair that the insurance company gets in your way, but it’s the reality. The good thing is that hiring an experienced lawyer can get things back on track. They can focus on the details, while you focus on getting back to full health.