An issue that comes up in many Georgia workers’ compensation cases is whether an old injury that is aggravated while on the job qualifies for benefits. In a recent workers’ compensation case, one state’s supreme court found that a judge’s decision denying workers’ compensation benefits to an employee was supported by the evidence in a case involving multiple injuries.
Before the employee began her job at a supermarket, she had broken her ankle. A few years after she began her job at the supermarket, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic arthritis in her ankle and was told to treat her ankle at home with a brace, supports, icing, stretching, and medication. Her job required her to stand for 40 to 45 hours per week. For the next 10 years, she sometimes felt minor pain and swelling in her ankle.
Then, while working, she tripped over a pallet and twisted her right ankle. About two days later, she sought medical treatment, and the doctor found her ankle was only mildly swollen and not bruised, but x-rays showed “degenerative changes.” The doctor determined she sprained her ankle, and she continued to work at the supermarket. The employee testified that her swelling and pain worsened continuously after the injury, but the doctor noted that the employee had decreased swelling and pain at the first follow-up appointment. At the next appointment about six weeks later, she said her ankle was “about the same,” but he recorded that she had improved slightly. The employee was doing physical therapy, but soon afterward, she twisted her ankle again. Her ankle did not get better, and the doctor scheduled her for an ankle-fusion surgery.