A staggering number of working age Americans become injured at work. The National Safety Council estimates a worker is injured while on the job every seven seconds. Soreness or pain, sprains, strains or tears, and cuts or lacerations are the most common ailments. In many cases, these people will be eligible for workers’ compensation.

But what if they have a pre-existing condition? Could they still file – and win – a workers’ comp claim?

How a pre-existing condition impacts a claim

Here’s the headline: Having a pre-existing condition does not prevent you from filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, it can make the claim a little more complicated.

Under Pennsylvania law, a worker with a pre-existing condition is eligible for workers’ comp benefits if they can demonstrate that the work directly aggravated the issue. So in plain terms, if the job made the pre-existing condition worse, that could lead to benefits under workers’ compensation.

For example, let’s say you suffered a chronic back injury in a car crash 10 years ago, and your current job requires you to repeatedly lift items. If the work makes that injury worse, you can pursue workers’ comp. If, however, the back injury becomes worse as part of a natural progression of the condition, and not as a result of the job, that is not enough to win a workers’ comp claim.

Some common types of pre-existing injuries that can get worse while working include:

  • Joint issues
  • Neck injuries
  • Torn ligaments
  • Back injuries (such as a herniated disc)
  • Hearing or vision loss

What to know about filing a claim

Most employers in Pennsylvania have to provide workers’ compensation insurance. That doesn’t mean they are eager to pay out. Employers and insurance companies will often take drastic steps to try to show your injury was not related to your work.

Because of this, it is hugely important to have a plan when filing for workers’ compensation, especially if it involves a pre-existing condition. That means collecting evidence and documents that will strengthen your case, and finding the right support to effectively push back against your employer and insurance company.

With a clear plan, winning a workers’ compensation claim – even with a pre-existing injury – is possible.