Preexisting Injuries in Workers’ Compensation Case

In Frankel v. Loxahatchee Club, Inc., a 68-year-old Florida man apparently injured his spine while moving a heavy piece of furniture at work. Following the incident, the man’s employer accepted compensability for the injury. At a workers’ compensation hearing before a judge of compensation claims (“JCC”), the employee admitted that he hurt his right shoulder 15-20 years before the workplace incident occurred. The man also stated he received no further treatment following rotator cuff surgery and post-surgery therapy.

When a Florida man injured his spine moving a piece of furniture at work (Frankel v. Loxahatchee Club, Inc.), his employer accepted compensability for his injury before learning that he had pre-existing injuries. He admitted to having injured his shoulder several years before and acknowledged that he’d had rotator cuff surgery and had received no treatment since he completed post-surgery therapy for that injury. Further, there was MRI evidence of degenerative arthritis in both of his shoulder bones, which was determined typical for his age, though he had never received any treatment for this condition.

The recommendation of the employee’s doctor was surgery for the right shoulder. He also determined that 55% of the source of the injury was attributable to the work incident, 25% was caused by the prior shoulder injury, and 20% was the result of the degenerative arthritis in his shoulder bones. With this information, the JCC ordered that the employer was responsible for 55% of the man’s workplace injury and associated costs, with an award of prevailing-party costs (Florida Statutes Section 440.15(5)(b)). The man decided to appeal the case with the First District Court of Appeal to argue that the degenerative arthritis was not confirmed to be responsible for 20% of his injury.

Ultimately, the appeal was successful because the court determined that the employer failed to inquire of the physician as to whether the arthritis was actually exacerbated by the workplace injury. The First District Court of Appeal reversed a portion of the JCC’s order, remanding the case, by applying Section 440.15(5)(b) to the case.

Any time you are injured at work in South Florida, you would be wise to discuss your case with a workers’ compensation attorney. You are much more likely to have a highly favorable outcome and ensure that your rights are protected if you seek out legal representation.

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