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How Do Preexisting Medical Conditions Factor into a Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claim?

On Behalf of | Nov 14, 2018 | Workers' Compensation Case Law |

Workers’ compensation claimants in Georgia may be entitled to compensation even if they have a preexisting condition. If you  have questions of this nature, be sure to reach out to a dedicated Georgia workers’ compensation attorney. In a recent workers’ compensation opinion, the court considered a case involving a preexisting condition that was allegedly worsened by a work injury, and determined the extent to which the injury was covered under workers’ compensation.

In that case, a law enforcement officer allegedly took several blows to the left side of his head during a training course at work. He suffered severe headaches and, a month later, suddenly lost most of the vision in his left eye. Two physicians evaluated the officer and believed that the vision loss was not related to the blows he sustained, but was caused by an underlying condition of defective blood circulation to his left eye

A medical examiner also evaluated the officer and opined that if he had not suffered the blows to his head, he “most likely” would have retained most of his vision, but that the officer could still have lost his vision due to the underlying condition. The medical examiner determined that 85% of the claimant’s disability was caused by a preexisting condition, and 15% was caused by his work injury.


Under state law, an employer is liable under workers’ compensation law only for the percentage of disability caused by the employment-related injury. Despite this, the workers’ compensation judge decided that the officer had suffered a 40 percent permanent disability without apportionment between his underlying condition and the work injury.

An appeals court disagreed with the workers’ compensation judge. The court explained that the medical examiner attributed the claimant’s disability to both the work injury and the underlying condition, and found that the underlying condition was largely the cause of his loss of vision. Therefore, the court sent the case back to adjust the award, apportioning 85% of the disability to the officer’s preexisting condition and 15% to his work injury.

Aggravation of a Preexisting Condition

In Georgia, the Workers’ Compensation Act considers an aggravation of a preexisting condition as a separate work injury. However, under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1(4), an injury caused by the aggravation of a preexisting condition is covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act “only for so long as the aggravation of the pre-existing condition continues to be the cause of the disability.” This means that if a claimant returns to the same pre-aggravated condition the injury is no longer compensable.

Contact an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Suffering an injury on the job can be devastating, and the Georgia workers’ compensation system can be difficult to navigate. The Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys at J. Franklin Burns, P.C. have over 90 years of combined experience fighting for the rights of injured workers throughout Georgia. Do not let insurance companies take advantage of you during this difficult time. We do not seek quick settlement of injury claims, and are willing to take your case as far as it needs to go. Contact us toll-free at 866-328-4978 or through our website to arrange a free consultation.