Common Federal Employee Injuries

Old Injuries

Pre-existing Injury

Under federal law (FECA), any pre-existing injury, if proven to be aggravated or accelerated by your federal job, may be accepted as a work related condition by the OWCP.

This means that even if your original injury was in high school, if you are hurt at work and that worsens the injury, you can be entitled to all of the benefits that would come with a newly experienced injury. The OWCP does not “apportion” causation. If any portion of the claimed condition is due to work activities or exposure, the condition is compensable.

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Most aggravations or accelerations of preexisting injuries are short term in nature. If the worsened condition persists for more than twelve months after your work injury incident it is: 1, referred to as permanent, and 2, entitles the worker to a schedule award (if it causes an impairment to an accepted body part).

Of course practically every mature adult has some type of pre-existing condition in the natural degenerative process. In some people their pre-existing condition is not only causing them problems (symptomatic) but also is requiring some medical treatment. This is said to be an active condition. In other people their pre-existing condition is inactive (dormant).

Often a pre-existing condition can make one more susceptible to injury from an accident. Restated, due to one’s age or particular previous incident they might be seriously injured as a result of a later incident which would not have even injured some other, healthier, person who did not possess the same pre-existing condition. Moreover, if the accident may have injured the healthier person, it may not have injured them as much.

Although that sounds relevant to avoid responsibility for the second event, it is actually relevant to demonstrating greater injury than one might have expected. It isn’t necessary that one prove her current problems were exclusively caused by the newer work incident.

The real question is: Given her already weakened condition, did the incident cause her to have some medical problems and personal injury? Pre-existing conditions tend to increase one’s subsequent injuries by what we refer to as activation, aggravation or exacerbation. The pre-existing problems do not minimize one’s rights to compensation.

Accordingly, there are more ways to affirmative describe causation of new treatment in a pre-existing injury patient than not. You need a doctor to explain how the condition is worse that that which pre-existed the work incident. Whenever possible, he should provide rationale for an opinion that the previously declining rate of degeneration has increased. It is much more persuasive if he can demonstrate it with objective testing.

Many doubters will refer to your injury as merely “soft tissue” as if that weren’t important. They don’t realize that practically everything in your body is soft tissue, particularly the very important connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and muscle attachments.

Like any other connective tissues, ligaments heal by development of scar tissue. Unfortunately the formation of scar tissue is often inadequate in some regards and over adequate in others.

Consider scar tissue as an attempt to glue everything together without regard to the fact that some of these parts need to move independent of each other. Scar tissue is less elastic, less resilient, less pliable, and less resistant to shear and tensile forces than the original tissue. Scar tissue has an adverse effect on mobility and extensibility and therefore alters biomechanics.

A fibrous area thickens due to scarring and thus becomes less elastic than the original tissue and thereby local kinetics are restricted. The lack of motion at one level is often compensated for by hypermobility at adjacent levels (decrease in flexibility at one level creates irregular movement at other portions of the spine). Repetition of the traumatic process or even chronic stress in the joint from these shearing and other forces results in thinning of the disc by the irregular articulation. As the disc abnormally wears, it thins which creates more irregular articulation.

As you can see, it is not unusual for a pre-existing condition to be both permanent and progression; the subject of understanding acceleration of pre-existing injuries is interesting to us…and we’d like to help you through it.

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