You have the legal right to file a workers’ compensation claim if a work-related injury aggravates or accelerates your degenerative disc disease or joint disorder. Depending on the specifics of your claim, you could be entitled to receive benefits that might include total or partial disability payments or a cash settlement.
Unfortunately, there’s substantial confusion concerning the right of an injured worker to obtain workers’ comp benefits for aggravation of a preexisting injury, particularly as it relates to degenerative disc disease or joint disorder. Meeting with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer about these conditions will help you determine the right course of action.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Degenerative disc disease is a medical condition that can result in severe neck and lower back pain. Nearly everyone will experience this medical condition as their spinal discs naturally degenerate and lose the ability to absorb shock over time. If there’s an injury to a disc, it can accelerate and aggravate this degenerative condition. Most often, the pain occurs not from the disease itself but because the individual sustained another back or neck injury.
It’s important to note that degenerative disc disease isn’t technically classified as a disease but rather a medical condition caused by a damaged disc in the spine. Damage might include a ruptured disc or herniated disc, slipped disc, or a tear in a disc’s outer core—called an annular tear.
Workers are more likely to exacerbate their degenerative disc disease when working in manual labor jobs that require repeated physical movements such as twisting, turning, or heavy lifting. Any job that can potentially result in a neck or back injury can aggravate degenerative disc disease.
What are Joint Disorders?
Commonly referred to as arthritis, which means joint inflammation, joint disorders can be painful and debilitating. Common types of joint disorders include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or lupus)
Arthritis symptoms can vary, and they may begin gradually or suddenly. Common joint disorder symptoms include stiffness, swelling, redness, pain around one or more joints (such as the knees, wrists, hands, shoulders, and hips), and limited function of supportive and surrounding body structures. Joint disorders can also be caused or aggravated by repetitive movements at work.
Are Degenerative Disc Disease or Joint Disorders Pre-existing Conditions?
Suppose you are pursuing workers’ compensation settlements for degenerative disc disease or joint disorder. In that case, it’s crucial to understand that these conditions are compensable no matter if the preexisting condition was work-related or not.
Workers’ comp benefits should be available for work-related injuries that aggravate a preexisting condition— even if that condition makes the individual more susceptible to future injury. When seeking compensation for aggravation of a preexisting condition, the claimant must establish that the aggravation of the previous medical condition:
- Was related to their work duties
- Caused a disability that prevents them from working
Seek Legal Representation for Your Workers’ Comp Claim
Workers’ comp insurance companies want to avoid paying claims as much as possible. One way they do this is to deny claims based on preexisting conditions. However, in the case of degenerative disc disease and joint disorders, they are often wrong in their denials. Suppose you have either one of these conditions, which is exacerbated by performing your work duties and now keeps you from working. In that case, you have a right to receive compensation. An experienced Orange County workers’ comp attorney can help you fight for your rights.