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What Are Your Remedies if a Work Injury Worsens a Prior Condition?

employee disabled

When an employee with a preexisting medical condition or injury aggravates that condition due to a subsequent work-related injury, leaving the employee disabled, there is a special type of workers’ compensation that applies. New Jersey created the Second Injury Fund to act as an insurer of last recourse for certain injuries, so that the employer is not overly exposed and so that the disabled employee receives adequate benefits.

The Second Injury Fund will cover the costs associated with the individual’s prior injury or preexisting condition and the employer is only responsible for the costs associated with the current injury. Financial support for the fund comes from an annual levy imposed on workers’ compensation carriers and private insurers statewide.

An injured worker must demonstrate the following three elements to qualify for relief from the Second Injury Fund:

  • The employee has become totally disabled.
  • The employee sustained a compensable injury at work that caused the disability.
  • A preexisting injury or illness contributed to the employee’s total disability.

Generally, the employee will initiate a workers’ compensation claim alleging permanent disability. The workers’ comp carrier will then join the Second Injury Fund as an additional party to cover the compensable costs attributable to the prior injury or condition. It is important to note that this system does not offer a chance to double-dip into benefits, as the fund’s payouts only begin at the conclusion of the current employer’s responsibility. However, the injured worker will continue to receive benefits from the fund as long as he or she remains permanently disabled.

Claims involving the Second Injury Fund are inherently more complicated since there are two distinct payers, each with financial responsibility for a different portion of the disabled employee’s benefits. Moreover, these claims require ongoing administrative compliance with applicable state regulations for the injured worker to keep their benefits. If you have been rendered disabled by a work injury that aggravated an existing condition, you should immediately seek the advice of a workers’ compensation attorney experienced in handling these complex cases.

Kevin T. Kutyla, Esq, with offices in Succasunna, New Jersey, is a board-certified workers’ compensation trial lawyer with over 25 years of experience. If you suffered an injury in a work-related accident, call 973-940-8970, or contact us online for a free initial consultation.