Pre-Existing Conditions and Tennessee Workers’ Compensation
Sometimes in workers’ compensation claims, the injured worker has pre-existing problems or conditions. Often the employer or workers’ compensation insurance company will deny the claim based on those pre-existing conditions or illnesses. An employer cannot escape liability when an employee, upon suffering a work-related injury, incurs disability far greater than if the employee had not had pre-existing medical conditions. Kellerman v. Food Lion, Inc., 929 S.W.2d 333, 335 (Tenn. 1992); Rogers v. Shaw, 813 S.W.2d 397 (Tenn. 1991).
The rule in Tennessee is that an employer takes an employee as he finds him. The employer is liable for disability resulting from injuries sustained by an employee arising out of and in the course of his employment even though it aggravates a previous condition with resulting disability far greater than otherwise would have been the case. McCormick v. Snappy Car Rentals, Inc., 806 S.W.2d 527, 529-30 (Tenn. 1991); Baxter v. Smith, 211 Tenn. 347, 364 S.W.2d 936, 942-43 (Tenn. 1962).
Pesce v. Aerostructures/Vought Aircraft Indus., 2007 LEXIS 323 (Tenn. Workers Comp. Panel) at *16-7.
“An injury is compensable, even though the claimant may have been suffering from a serious pre-existing condition or disability, if a work connected accident can be fairly said to be a contributing cause of such injury.” Fink v. Caudle, 856 S.W.2d 952, 958 (Tenn. 1993). “[T]o be compensable, the pre- existing condition must be  ‘advanced’ or there must be an  ‘anatomical change’ in the pre-existing condition or the employment must cause  ‘an actual progression … of the underlying disease.’” Cunningham v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 811 S.W.2d 888, 890 (Tenn. 1991) (citing Talley v. Virginia Ins. Reciprocal, 775 S.W.2d 587, 591 (Tenn. 1989); Springfield v. Eden, 1995 WL 595602 (Tenn. Workers Comp. Appeals Panel)).
In Sweat v. Superior Industries, Inc., 966 S.W.2d 31, 34 (Tenn. 1998), the employee had a pre-existing condition of psoriatic arthritis that his employment worsened or progressed. The medical proof showed that the allocation of how much the disease progressed from work-related activity could not be quantified. Id. The Court stated “there being no way by which the Court can quantify how much worse his condition was made by his work, it results that the employer must bear the burden of any uncertainty.” Id. at 34.
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For more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, long-term disability, or workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211, (800) 806-4611, or through our website.