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Aggravation of a Preexisting Condition in Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claims

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2018 | Workers' Compensation Case Law |

Luckily for employees, they do not have to be in perfect health before an injury in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia. This means that if an employee is injured on the job, the employee may qualify for benefits if the work injury aggravates a preexisting injury.

Court Rejects Employee’s Aggravation Claim

In a recent case, one state’s supreme court considered whether an employee’s left knee injury aggravated a preexisting injury to his right knee. In that case, the employee injured his left knee while he was working for the city’s street department, first in 2009 and again in 2012. His injuries were covered under the state’s workers’ compensation act. However, the employee later reported pain in his right knee, and he was diagnosed with severe degenerative joint disease of the right knee.

The employee underwent surgery on his right knee but did not seek workers’ compensation approval for the procedure. After the procedure, the employee filed for workers’ compensation benefits for the injury to his right knee. He argued that his left knee injuries aggravated a preexisting degenerating joint disease in his right knee as well. The workers’ compensation commission rejected his claim, and he appealed.


The state’s supreme court determined that the employee’s injuries to his left knee did not aggravate the preexisting degenerative joint disease in his right knee. The court relied on an expert who concluded that the right knee injury was not related to the left knee injury. The employee also did not report pain in his left knee until several months after his left knee injury had resolved. As a result, the court determined that the right knee injury was not aggravated by a work injury and denied the employee’s claim for benefits.

Preexisting Conditions in Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claims

Even if an employee is predisposed to injury due to a preexisting condition, the employee may still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for a work injury or the aggravation of a preexisting condition due to a work injury. In the case of an aggravated injury, an employee must show that a preexisting condition was aggravated by an accident “arising out of and in the course of employment.” O.C.G.A. 34-9-1(4). Under that statute, the employee is entitled to benefits “only for so long as the aggravation of the preexisting condition continues to be the cause of the disability.” Therefore, once the aggravation of a preexisting condition ends, the employee is no longer entitled to benefits.

Have You Been Injured on the Job?

If you have been injured at work, you may be entitled to Georgia workers’ compensation benefits, even if you had a preexisting condition. The Georgia workers’ compensation law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. has decades of experience in workers’ compensation claims and can help you manage the complicated procedural requirements in workers’ compensation cases. Our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys are former insurance defense attorneys, which means that we understand the other side’s tactics. The law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. provides clients with quality legal representation and responsive client service. Call us at 404-920-4708 or contact us through our online form.