Once you have received your diagnosis and treatment plan for a worker's compensation injury, it doesn't always mean that you won't have problems in the future. As your injuries heal, you may experience other problems that may not have presented themselves in the beginning. If your injury worsens or new problems begin to appear as a result of the original condition, you may have recourse to reopen or modify your existing case.
Reopen Your Case
Even if your original diagnosis was accurate, there are cases when the injury may continue to worsen. The pain can intensify or become chronic. If this occurs, reopening your original case is the way to go. You will file a claim to reopen the original case and add that these symptoms and issues are a continuation of the first injury.
If problems begin to occur after your original case has been closed, you may be able to reopen it if you can prove the new problems are directly related to the original injury. To file a new worker's compensation claim, your doctor must submit a new diagnosis that directly relates the new medical problems to the original injury.
Full and Final Releases
If you agreed to a lump sum payment or signed a “Full and Final” release when your first case was closed, you will not be able to refile or reopen the original case, even if it can be proven that the injury or chronic pain is associated with the original injury.
Most worker's compensation attorneys will recommend against signing a Full and Final Release for this reason. These releases close the case permanently and also restrict your ability to refile if you have future complaints due to the original injury.
However, if you have a “new injury” or further cumulative trauma related to continued exposure causing additional disability in addition to the previously settled disability, you may be able to file a new claim. The doctors will have to “apportion” between the successive injuries on a percentage basis.