Being injured in a workplace accident is a difficult and unfortunate situation to begin with, but what if your workplace injury leaves you with permanent scarring or disfigurement? It’s possible for you to receive additional or separate scar compensation for the harms and losses you’ve suffered. However, it’s very easy to make the wrong move and undermine your claim.
As a workers’ compensation attorney, I’ve seen workers miss out on maximum compensation for scarring or disfigurement due to some common pitfalls in dealing with the insurance company alone.
Read on to learn more about how much you may be owed in scar compensation – and how to try to avoid common pitfalls that may result in less compensation than you might have otherwise received.
How Much You Can Get in Workers’ Comp Permanent Scar Compensation
Eligible S.C. injured workers are entitled to three main benefits:
- medical treatment
- temporary pay while out of work
- any permanent disability related to the specific injury
Your temporary pay while out of work is equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage (AWW) and is called your compensation rate (CR).
Your AWW is determined based on how much you made per week for the previous four quarters of your employment leading up to your injury (or by averaging how much you made every week if you worked there for less than a year).
In addition to temporary pay, if an injured worker has permanent disability because of their injury, those benefits can be paid once you have been released by your doctor at maximum medical improvement (MMI). These benefits are also calculated using your AWW and CR.
Real World Example
That’s a lot of information, but here’s an example of how that can play out.1
Let’s say you make $60,000 annually and you get injured at work after being employed for exactly one year. Your AWW would be around $1,153 ($60,000/52 weeks), and so your wage loss compensation would be about $768 ($1,153 x .6667, or 2/3) per week.
Now let’s say you made $60,000 per year for 26 weeks, but then got a raise and started making $65,000 per year until you got injured 26 weeks later. In this case, your AWW would be around $1,201 ([$30,000/26 weeks = AWW $1,153] + [$32,500/26 weeks = AWW $1,250] divided by 2), and so your wage loss compensation would then be almost $801 ($1,201 x .6667, or 2/3) per week).
How Long Can You Receive Permanent Scar Compensation?
S.C. law states benefits shall be paid for “serious permanent disfigurement of the face, head, neck or other area normally exposed in employment not to exceed 50 weeks.”
Additional Considerations in Workers’ Comp Permanent Scar Compensation
South Carolina law provides a means to obtain permanent disability related to scarring even though the scarring itself may not be disabling.
When someone has been injured and we are considering the value of their claim, we first look at how the injury impacts our client’s ability to work. Sometimes, the injuries we are evaluating have also caused scarring or disfigurement. Keep in mind, the scarring could be from the actual injury or, in some cases, the scarring could be caused by surgeries, skin grafts, etc.
Also, disfigurement doesn’t always have to be a scar. If you now have a terrible limp due to a leg injury, it’s possible you could be awarded benefits for disfigurement. This is a really rare circumstance, and I will explain below why it may not be in your best interest to try and obtain benefits for disfigurement over benefits for disability to the affected body part.
As you can see, this can all get very complicated. If you’ve suffered permanent scarring or disfigurement, get clarity on your case with no obligation by calling 1-866-900-7078 today for a free case evaluation.
How Do We Determine if Benefits Are Owed for Scarring and/or Disfigurement?
We start by asking three important questions:
- First, is the scar or disfigurement on your face, head, or neck?
- If so, these types of scars or disfigurement are generally considered compensable.
- If not, is the scarring or disfigurement on a body part that is normally exposed while at work?
- This is tricky – if you are required to wear pants at work and your scarring is on your leg, you may not be entitled to benefits for disfigurement. However, if you have a scar on your hands or arms, then you would likely be entitled to some benefits for scarring or disfigurement.
- What type of scar is it?
- If the scarring and/or disfigurement is not on your face, head, or neck and isn’t on a body part normally exposed at work, but it is from a serious burn or is “keloid” in nature, then you may be entitled to benefits.
- Serious burn scars or keloid scars should be considered special because they can be an exception to the rule that you can’t collect benefits for both disability and scarring/disfigurement for the same injury.
The Role of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC)
The Commission determines the value of your scarring or disfigurement. They consider several factors, including the following:
- How noticeable your scar or disfigurement is
- Your work experience and what type of work you perform
- Your level of education
- Your age
Learn More: Appealing to the SCWCC
Is Scarring Compensation Instead of Injury Compensation or in Addition to It?
With certain exceptions, you cannot receive benefits for both the injury and scarring. So, which should you seek compensation for?
This is probably the trickiest issue related to benefits for scarring and/or disfigurement. The option which leads to the most possible compensation might not always be clear, but choosing the best way to pursue damages for your unique situation can make a significant financial difference. While a scar can be worth up to 50 weeks of disability benefits, other injuries can be worth anywhere from 1 to 500 weeks.
As I mentioned earlier, if your disfigurement is the result of “serious burn scars” or “keloid scars,” you may be able to obtain an award for disability to the injured body part AND the disfigurement. And it gets trickier.
There is a workers’ comp Regulation in South Carolina that allows for possible compensation for “loss of skin” and those benefits could range from 5-300 weeks.
Therefore, there could be a potentially significant award for loss of skin that isn’t even being considered by the injured worker while they are focusing on the disability and permanent restrictions caused by their on-the-job injury.
Your attorney can help you evaluate the severity of your injury versus the severity of your scarring, and the smallest detail can matter. And you don’t want to miss out on an award for disfigurement or loss of skin that you may be owed – but hasn’t even been considered by your employer and the insurance company. For these and other reasons, you should seek a free case evaluation from an attorney before agreeing to anything with the insurance company.
Example: Injury Versus Scar Compensation in Workers’ Comp
Let’s say you suffered a workplace injury that damaged your arm and left you with a scar. You could receive benefits based on your average weekly wage for either your arm or your scar, but not both.
An arm can be worth up to 220 weeks of disability, while a scar is worth up to 50 weeks. But how many weeks are you likely to get for the injury versus the scar? The arm may have healed quickly, while the scar may be large and highly visible.
Here’s another example: Consider an employee who has burned their arm very badly, which has impacted the use of their arm. To repair the burned area, doctors required skin grafts from the employee’s left thigh. The employee has permanent impairment to their arm, disfigurement from the burn scars, and a large scar on their leg from the skin grafts. What are they entitled to?
I would argue the client would be entitled to permanent disability benefits for the loss of use of their arm. I would also argue that the client is entitled to additional disability benefits for the scarring on the arm because the burns are serious burn scars on a body part regularly exposed at work. Lastly, I would argue the client is entitled to additional benefits for loss of skin on their leg due to the skin grafts taken to repair the injured arm.
The Exceptions: When You Can Receive Compensation for Both the Injury and the Scar
If you have a hypertrophic scar, you must choose between pursuing compensation for your scar or your injury. A hypertrophic scar is often flat or only slightly raised with clear outlines and a wavy pattern.
Certain scars, however, such as burn scars and keloid scars, may entitle you to compensation for both the injury and the scar. Keloid scars are recognizable because they’re often lumpy, raised, ridged, and discolored – they tend to be noticeable when located in exposed areas such as the face or hands.
In these situations, you could receive additional weeks of workers’ compensation benefits (at your Average Weekly Wage) for your scar on top of injury benefits.
It’s important to know that benefits of any kind are not automatic. Fortunately, your workers’ comp attorney is on your side and can negotiate on your behalf for everything you may deserve.
We recently had a case where a client suffered severe burns due to a work-related accident. We were able to secure a permanent disability award for his resulting lack of ability to use the affected body part as well as for scarring. Additionally, we fought to get more benefits for the loss of skin from the skin grafts that were taken.1
Learn More: Do You Need a Workers’ Comp Attorney?
Timing, the Doctor, and Permanent Scar Compensation
After your work injury involving permanent scarring or disfigurement, you should receive medical treatment from a doctor until you’ve reached a point where you’ve healed as much as reasonably possible.
This is called maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is typically the point where negotiations for permanent disability and scar compensation can begin between your attorney and the insurance company.
Scar noticeability is a key factor in determining how much scar compensation you may be entitled to. A scar may improve as time passes, making it potentially worth less. In a case where you choose to pursue compensation for your scar rather than the injury, it may be more beneficial for your claim if you reached MMI more quickly.
However, some insurance company doctors may delay in declaring you’ve reached MMI. On the other hand, if you’re seeking permanent disability compensation for your injury, some doctors may say you’ve reached MMI too quickly – before the full extent of your injuries may be clear.
How Do You Level the Playing Field With the Insurance Company and Their Doctor?
An attorney who’s experienced in workers’ compensation law can help you build your case for maximum compensation for your injury and/or any scarring or disfigurement.
Your workers’ comp lawyer will ensure that your claim forms are filled out properly and filed on time. We search for evidence such as medical bills for injuries that left you with a scar, timecards to show how the injury affected your productivity, and office emails about your claim.
We can also interview necessary witnesses, such as co-workers, doctors, and managers, to discover factual information that may support your scar claim and help you maximize your compensation.
The Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Can Help You
Our experienced team has helped many clients with work injuries of all kinds, including those that led to scarring or permanent disfigurement. Several of our attorneys have experience working for defense insurance firms, so we know how to fight the workers’ compensation insurance company if they try to deny your claim or prevent you from receiving the compensation for scarring you may deserve.
Since 1997, my firm has recovered more than $1.6 billion in total compensation for more than 60,000 people.1
For 2023, my firm was named to the U.S. News – Best Lawyers list for “Best Law Firms,” with a Tier 1 ranking (the highest) for Workers Compensation Law.3