Does the NJ Worker’s Compensation Act allow an injured worker with an underlying degenerative condition to collect worker’s compensation benefits if the condition is aggravated in an accident at work?
The answer is yes. Under the Act and case law an injury can be compensable by original causation, aggravation, acceleration or exacerbation. A typical situation is where a worker has an underlying arthritic condition, but one that is asymptomatic, meaning the worker does not experience any pain or ill effects from the condition. He or she then suffers a fall at work, and thereafter suffers pain and limitation of motion in the affected body part. With proper medical proof, this injury can be considered work related despite the pre-existing underlying condition. The worker would be able to receive treatment and disability benefits which might be available based on the particular injury. Keep in mind, however, there must be medical evidence of this. A physician, preferably a specialist in the particular medical area of the worker’s injury, must be able to state that by objective medical evidence and by reasonable medical probability the underlying condition was aggravated or accelerated by the fall. If the employer denies benefits in this situation, then with this medical opinion a motion can be filed with the Workers’ Compensation Court asking for an order compelling the employer to provide compensation benefits.