New Injury or Re-Injury?

by Unsettled
(Los Angeles, California)

I was injured in a car accident at work 6 years ago. I did not have a lawyer for my workmans comp claim, but I did have one for the personal injury against the other person's insurance.

I was shown to have a bulging disk in my lower back. I never missed work, but I did receive treatment. I had minor discomfort, but the injury never limited my daily activities. I was awarded a settlement from workers comp as well as one for the personal injury from the other person's auto insurance.

Fast forward to today. I was re-injured at work and now I'm having a lot of pain. The pain is similar to what I felt before (with the previous injury), but now it's much worse, followed by radiating pain down my legs and numbness in left foot.

Being able to get good sleep is difficult since I am not able to remain in a comfortable position all night. I wake up about every 45 to 90 minutes to get comfortable again. My employer has accepted the new claim on an industrial basis, which I guess means they agree I got hurt on the job. Since the old injury happened 6 years ago and I'm having pain in the same area, is this considered a new injury or a re-injury?

I'm being urged by others to seek an attorney, and from what I've seen (my employer plays a lot of games), I believe I will probably need one to keep things running smoothly. I'm not worried about a settlement but if I get an attorney and this is thought to be an aggravation of the original injury, will there be a settlement that will cover the attorney costs?

I was also looking at my paperwork and it says something like, if I am understanding it correctly, because I received a settlement from the insurance company of the at-fault driver, I have to pay it back to my employer or show I spent at least the amount of that settlement in medical costs before my employer would do anything for me. Is this right?

I am so confused and I just don't want to be out any money. Times are tough and I have cut out the unnecessary stuff to keep the house running smoothly.

I am a police officer in California and I'm also concerned this could be a limiting factor, whether or not I can return to duty or will be faced with the possibility of having to retire. If that happens I don't know what I'll do. Thanks for any info you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "New Injury or Re-Injury?":

Unsettled (Los Angeles, California):

From the facts you present it is difficult to tell if your new injury was as a result of an automobile collision while you were on-duty, or if the injury was of a different work related nature. The best manner in which to confirm whether the new injury is an exacerbation of the previous injury is to see a medical specialist, probably an orthopedic surgeon.

If your personal injury claim will be a work related Workmans Compensation claim and you are considering retaining an Attorney, you can be confident the Attorney will not accept any money unless she is successful in the prosecution of your claim. We suggest you contact a Personal Injury Attorney who specializes in Workmans Compensation cases. Most Workmans Compensation Attorneys will not charge any fee for an initial office consultation.

You state “because I received a settlement from the insurance company of the at-fault driver, I have to pay it back to my employer or show I spent at least the amount of that settlement in medical costs before my employer would do anything for me. Is this right?"

We are not sure if you are referring to the injury 6 years ago or the recent injury. If you are referring to the new injury, California Workmans Compensation rules require you to reimburse the insurance company if you have received personal injury benefits for the same injury for which Workmans Compensation insurance has already paid to you.

There is a formula used to determine the complicated reimbursement. You may have to pay back to the insurance company 2/3rds of the total sum of the lost income and any medical benefits you received.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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