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California Court of Appeals Rules on Workers’ Compensation Cases Involving Pre-Existing Conditions

California Court of Appeals Rules on Workers’ Compensation Cases Involving Pre-Existing Conditions

Under the ruling, only the portion of the injury attributed to the work incident will be covered by workers’ compensation

California Court of Appeals Rules on Workers’ Compensation Cases Involving Pre-Existing Conditions

Many Americans have medical issues, or what are often referred to as pre-existing conditions. In most cases, these conditions are mild, and don’t impact our lives on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we have them — until something happens that changes our lives.

Such was the case of police officer Aaron Lindh, who worked as a police officer for the city of Petaluma. During a training, Lindh suffered three to six blows to the left side of his head. Afterwards, he began to suffer severe headaches that lasted for several hours. He then lost almost all of the vision in his left eye. Lindh submitted a claim for workers’ compensation for his disability.

A neurologist testified that Lindh suffered from a condition where he had defective blood flow to his left eye. He did not have symptoms before he received the blows to his head, and he may have retained most of the vision in his left eye if he had not been hit. However, even without the hits, he also could have lost the vision in his eye. The doctor testified that Lindh’s disability was 85% due to his pre-existing condition and 15% due to his work-related injury. The administrative law judge denied this division of his disability and instead awarded Lindh benefits based on his total permanent disability rating of 40% (as agreed to by the parties). The city of Petaluma appealed the order, and the Workers’ Compensation Board of Appeals upheld the decision. The California Court of Appeals then issued a decision.

The Court of Appeals found that the employer was only responsible for 15% of Lindh’s 40% total permanent disability benefits. It based its decision on the California Workers’ Compensation Act, which provide that employers are only responsible for the portion of the disability that is directly attributed to the workplace accidents — not for the portion that is attributed to other causes. According to the statute, other factors include pre-existing conditions. This law also states that doctors should apportion disability by percentage in their reports (i.e., state what percentage is due to the workplace injury, as compared to other causes).

So what does this mean for injured workers in California? In short, if you have suffered a workplace injury and have a preexisting condition, you will likely need the assistance of a skilled California workers’ compensation attorney. While workers’ compensation cases can often be complex, they may be even more challenging when a pre-existing condition — even one that is asymptomatic — is involved. An experienced lawyer can make a strong argument and advocate for you so that you get the benefits that you deserve.

The California workers’ compensation attorneys of PLBSH are adept at working with clients to help them achieve favorable outcomes in applying for and receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Contact our office today at (800) 435-7542 or to schedule a consultation.

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