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Does Ohio workers’ compensation cover pre-existing conditions?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2024 | Workers' Compensation

Some Ohio workers’ compensation claims are simple and straightforward. A worker gets hit by a falling object in a warehouse and reports the issue to their supervisor. The worker seeks medical care immediately and files a workers’ compensation claim. If the workers’ compensation claim is approved, the injured worker may be eligible for both their treatment costs and lost wages if they cannot return to work immediately.

Other times, the connection between a worker’s medical condition and their employment may be less clear. For example, the injured worker may have already had a specific diagnosis before they started a big job. Proper medical treatment may have allowed them to control their pre-existing medical condition. But the performance of their work-related activities may cause the condition to worsen or become symptomatic. Can Ohio employees get workers’ compensation benefits for a pre-existing medical condition?

The circumstances determine eligibility

Ohio workers’ compensation laws provides disability and medical benefits for health concerns which arise directly from work-related activities. A pre-existing medical condition can worsen because of someone’s current employment. The worker would need to establish that the work activities more likely than not resulted in a substantial aggravation of their pre-existing condition.

For example, someone with pre-existing osteoarthritis may have had no noticeable symptoms when they accepted a new position performing physical work activity. However, when the physical demands of the job lead to an injury, the injury may aggravate an underlying, previously asymptomatic, condition. Now this individual is dealing with an injury superimposed on a previously asymptomatic condition.

If that the worker’s physician opines that there is a clear causal connection between work activities and their current medical condition, that worker may file a workers’ compensation claim. The law regulating workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio specifically addresses the right to request benefits when a worker’s work activity contributes to a substantial aggravation of a pre-existing medical condition.

Of course, any scenario in which there are questions about the connection between a condition and someone’s employment could lead to challenges from the employer or the Ohio BWC. The burden of proof to establish the causal connection between the injury/illness and the work activity is on the injured worker. Therefore, receiving prompt medical treatment once symptoms arise gives the injured worker the best chance of proving that his/her injury/illness is work related.

Establishing the causal connection between a work-related injury/illness and a previously asymptomatic condition can be tricky. Seeking legal guidance immediately after the work-related incident will give an injured worker the best chance of proving that his/her pre-existing condition was affected by his/her work activities.