Pre-Existing Employee Injuries and the Potential of Them Having Future Workers’ Compensation Claims
Recently I have had a few conversations with clients discussing their concerns about employees with prior health injuries. In a nutshell, these clients are worried about the potential of one of their employees with a pre-existing injury becoming re-injured on the job and requiring workers’ compensation insurance benefits. It just so happens that their employee’s pre-existing injuries are severe (back, neck, etc.) and the employees also happen to not have health insurance because they did not buy into an available employer program or purchase coverage on their own. These clients wanted to know is there is anything they could do to document an employee’s file stating that the individual has a specific pre-existing injury, has no health insurance and if they inflame the existing injury on the job could workers’ compensation benefits be declined, saving the client future expenses by not having claims show up on their experience mod worksheet. In a word, the answer to this question, is NO.
In Virginia, and most states, workers’ compensation injuries are very claimant friendly. If an employee re-injures a pre-existing condition on the job in the course of their work it is a workers’ compensation claim and they are eligible for benefits; end of story. So what is an employer to do? There is not much an employer can do, really, outside of terminating the individual. And obviously that is not the best course of action, culture-wise, ethically or legally. The only thing to do is screen for the best possible employees needed to fulfill job requirements. Or put at risk workers in lighter duty working conditions to reduce the possibility or incidence.