Nevada’s workers’ compensation insurance system is designed to ensure that everyone who works for an employer in the state is protected in the event of an injury on the job. Benefits are provided to qualified workers without regard to fault: an injury is covered regardless of whether the worker, the employer, or someone else can be blamed for causing it. The lack of a fault analysis doesn’t stop insurers from looking for ways to deny or limit an injured worker’s coverage. One way they may try to do that is by arguing that the injury existed prior to the work-related event that gave rise to the claim.
To be covered by workers’ compensation insurance an injury must “arise out of or in the course of employment.” Generally speaking this means that if a worker is injured while doing work-related activities, especially if the worker is “on the clock” and getting paid for the time that covers the injury event, the injury will be covered. In some types of injury, the cause may have arisen at work, but the scope of the injury only became clear later. Cancer arising after exposure to carcinogens at the workplace is a good example of a work-related illness that may be slow to develop and that would require the worker to establish a causal link to the employer in order to receive coverage.
Causation can become a barrier to coverage if the source of a particular injury can be traced to something that is not work-related. If a claim is for an injury that could be described as a “pre-existing condition” the insurer may refuse to cover it. For example, a worker who hurt his knee while skiing may have a more difficult time getting coverage for an injury to the same knee while on the job. The insurer’s argument will be that the injury did not “arise out of or in the course of employment” but was in fact the personal problem of the worker.
For a worker in such a circumstance the important thing is to document the ways in which an existing condition was made worse by the accident at work. Being clear with doctors about the details of the injury is important at every stage. So is keeping a record. In the case of the skier, if a doctor was consulted after the skiing accident the doctor will have records related to the scope and severity of the injury at that time. The accident at work may have worsened the condition in ways that can be medically measured, and to that extent the worker may be entitled to coverage.
If an insurer denies a claim that has a legitimate basis in a work-related injury the worker may need to consult with an attorney to make a successful appeal. An attorney can help the client organize facts, complete paperwork, and anticipate common insurer arguments. The attorney can also help the client navigate the medical examination process that will be used to determine the scope of coverage.
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in workers’ compensation cases for over 45 years. We can help you understand how your preexisting conditions may affect your coverage for a work-related injury. For a free attorney consultation about your case call us at 702-388-4476 or through our contacts page.