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Reinjure or Aggravate a Prior Injury or Condition at Work

An aggravation or acceleration of a previous condition or injury is very common in workers’ compensation cases. It can occur in the context of an employee having a pre-existing condition like arthritis, or a prior injury like an ACL tear, and then a subsequent injury to that same area. 

The issue in regard to Minnesota workers’ compensation law is what fault can be attributed, if any, to the prior injury/condition and the work-related injury.

The basis standard under Minnesota workers’ compensation law is that an injury is compensable if the employment is a substantial contributing factor to the benefits being sought.  The court in Vanda v. Minn. Mining & Mfg., stated as follows:

The longstanding rule, applied by this court in numerous cases, is that when the usual tasks ordinary to an employee’s work substantially aggravate, accelerate, or combine with a pre-existing disease or latent condition to produce a disability, the entire disability is compensable, no apportionment being made on the basis of relative casual contribution of the pre-existing conditions and the work activities.  

The court looks at several factors to determine whether an aggravation of a preexisting condition is temporary or permanent. These factors include:

  1. The nature and severity of the preexisting condition and the extent of restrictions and disability resulting therefrom;
  2. The nature of the symptoms and the extent of medical treatment prior to the aggravating incident;
  3. The nature and severity of the aggravating incident and the extent of the restrictions and disability resulting therefrom;
  4. The nature of the symptoms and extent of medical treatment following the aggravating incident;
  5. The nature and extent of the employee’s work duties and non-work activities during the relevant period; and
  6. Medical opinions on the issue.

The Minnesota workers’ compensation judge will take all these factors into account to determine whether the aggravation is a permanent or temporary aggravation of the pre-existing condition.  It is important to obtain medical evidence that addresses these factors.

A worker who suffers an exacerbation or aggravation of a pre-existing injury is going to have a difficult time convincing an insurance company that the injury is compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation law. An insurance company will attempt to find any reason to deny liability for a workers’ compensation injury.

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If your claim has been denied based on a prior injury, please contact our office today at 651-222-6603 for a free consultation.

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Joshua R. Stokka

Josh has been representing injured workers for over 10 years. After his first job during law school working for a workers’ compensation attorney, he decided that workers’ compensation is what he eventually wanted to do after law school. Prior to practicing in the area of workers’ compensation, Josh clerked for a judge in the 7th Judicial District in Minnesota. This valuable experience gave him insight into how judges think, do their jobs behind the scene, and how to frame a case in order to obtain a favorable result.  Now, he focuses 100% of his practice to defending injured workers’ in Minnesota.

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