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Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition - Ohio Workers' Compensation

Posted by attorney Michael Gruhin

Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

Ohio Workers' Compensation claims which took place before August 25, 2006 did not have the legal requirement to prove that a susbstantial aggravation to a pre-existing condition. Prior to August 25th, the legal requirement was simply showing an aggravation, however slight, which did not require objective evidence.

However, if the work-related injury occurred on or after August 25, 2006, Ohio Revised Code Section 4123.01(C)(4) states that an injury does not include a condition that pre-existed an injury unless that pre-existing condition is substantially aggravated by the injury. Under the new law, substantial aggravation must be documented by objective test results. Subjective complaints may be evidence of substantial aggravation, however, subjective complaints without objective diagnostic findings, objective clinical findings, or objective test results will be insufficient to substantiate a request for an additional condition of substantial aggravation.

A doctor cannot base his/her opinion of a substantial aggravation solely upon the history that the patient had no, or minimal prior complaints to the injured body area (asymptomatic). It is not enough to say that all the pain or limitations from the aggravation of a pre-existing condition started with the injury or that the patient only experienced minimal complaints which worsened after the injury.

In Smith v.Lucas County, 2011-Ohio-1548 (OH CA 6), which was decided on March 31, 2011 the Court held that the injured worker failed, as a matter of law, to meet the statutory requirements of a substantial aggravation of a pre-existing condition of the cervical spine in that such aggravation was not documented by objective medical evidence of the pre-existing condition both before and after the industrial injury.

In the Smith case, the court suggested that if the injured worker had provided any medical records or a statement from her treating physician prior to the work injury as to her pre-existing condition or symptoms then reasonable minds could come to different conclusions so as to permit the injured worker to proceed to trial on the substantial aggravation issue.

The Court further noted that such evidence would not necessarily require objective “before" and “after" findings or results. A Board Certified Ohio Workers' Compensation Specialist Attorney is in the best position to determine if the substantial aggravation definition can be met.

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