Scars & Disfigurement
Some injuries you might suffer in the workplace could go beyond broken bones, torn muscles, or neck and back injuries. In some circumstances, the aftereffects of your workplace injuries might include disfigurement or scars marked on your body for all to see. These injuries can be compensable too. While you might know that you can be compensated for your direct workplace injuries or illnesses, you might not be aware that you could receive extra workers’ compensation benefits if you have been disfigured or scarred – whether from your original injury or as a complication from post-accident surgery. Workplace injuries and conditions can not only do damage to a person’s body, but they can permanently disfigure or scar and cause upset and anxiety problems for the rest of their lives.
Benefits For Scarring and Disfigurement
Scarring and disfigurement awards are among the more difficult workers’ compensation benefits to obtain. Knowing the facts surrounding your injuries and how these benefits are awarded is important to your ability to apply for and obtain additional workers’ compensation benefits. We strongly recommend that you seek the professional services of a workers’ compensation attorney if you believe that your case involves a scar or disfigurement.
First off, the date of your injury or illness impacts your ability to receive scarring and disfigurement benefits. The law used to be very permissive about scarring and disfigurement benefits. Any worker who suffered injuries or became ill prior to July 1, 1993, could receive additional benefits in some cases. This might happen if there is significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring. This can be from the injury itself or surgery to repair the injury. Spinal or inguinal hernia surgery is not covered, but you could gain benefits for any other kind of claimed scar or disfigurement.
For these older injuries, you simply needed to raise the issue to an Administrative Law Judge’s (then-called the Commissioner) attention, who would evaluate the scar – wherever located on the person. The Commissioner would assess the scar based on its location, visibility, and size and would calculate an award expressed as a payment for a certain number of weeks of compensation payments. Despite this relatively simple system, insurance companies did not make injured workers aware of these awards. For older injuries, scarring awards are available in many cases. If you were injured in the 1970s, 1980s, or the early 1990s, you could be eligible for a scar award. If you haven’t received a scar award following the injury or surgery, contact our firm immediately to discuss how we may help you claim the award.
Worker’s Compensation Laws
Our workers’ compensation law has since changed, and it is now far less permissive. As the present law now stands, if your injuries or illness came about after July 1, 1993 (which is almost certainly the case other than with certain occupational illnesses), there are only certain scars or disfigurements that are awarded benefits. These situations include where the scar or disfigurement is on the face, head, or neck. It might also be the case if the scar or disfigurement is on another location on the body where it will cause a handicap to the person in getting work or continuing to work. Scars or disfigurements on the neck are limited to scars not caused by spinal surgery. The law is now very limited as to whether a scar is compensable.
Injuries after 1993 that result in disfigurement or scarring are more complex. Now, there is a narrow one-year window to claim the scar award. The benefit cannot be claimed earlier than one year following the injury or later than two years following the injury. Failing to file by this deadline may mean that you lose the chance to claim an award. Insurance companies don’t want you to claim the award, and might not alert you to the deadlines.
Most employers’ insurance carriers heavily contest scar cases. Consider the case of a police officer who was slashed with a knife across his stomach while apprehending a criminal defendant in 2020. The insurance company attorney will certainly object to payment of the scar benefits because the injury was after the change in the law in 1993 and the scar was not on the police officer’s head, face, or neck. Under this scenario, you will need to uncover a reason to justify arguing that the benefits were still owed. With help from your attending doctor, you might be able to argue that the scar handicapped the police officer in continuing his employment; the police officer’s midsection was weakened by the scar, which made it more difficult for him to continue performing his duties as a police officer. This is a difficult argument to undertake (and win).
Help With Compensation
You should know that being disfigured or scarred can prompt additional workers’ compensation benefits in your workers’ compensation case. You will need a workers’ compensation attorney to navigate this process. Contact us for more help.