If you had a prior back injury for strain and sprain nine years ago and you haven’t had any problems with it ever since but now you have a new back injury at work, an employer may try to argue that it must be due to that old injury. There are a variety of reasons they do this. First, the payments to you are a lot less because they are governed by the year of injury. Each year the statewide average weekly rate increases, so presumably you are making better money now than you did nine years ago.
The other reason is because workers’ compensation is a big insurance policy, it operates almost like auto insurance would. If you get into an accident, the insurance company will raise your rates for a number of years. It works the same way with employers in a workers’ comp setting. After a certain period of time, an injury has no more effect on an employer’s rates, which is usually about five years. So an employer would have an incentive to say that your current back problem was the result of something you did a long time ago. The benefit to the employer is that they are generally not tagged for the cost of the claim. It goes strictly to the bureau, and the bureau cannot raise their rates up. The advantage is that you will still get treatment a little easier, although you will still have to contend with the bureau and the managed care organizations to get approval for treatment. The disadvantage to you is that your rate of payment is a lot lower. If you are making more money now and you get hurt, you don’t want to go back and get paid based on the wages you made nine years ago. If you got raises and are making better money now you will be getting paid a lot less money having something put under your old claim.