Unfortunately, when many South Carolinians suffer an on the job injury, that injury results in permanent scarring or disfigurement to their body. I am often confronted with whether my client is entitled to compensation or additional compensation when they are left with permanent scarring or disfigurement. Whether the injury is a result of serious burn injuries, lacerations, or if a worker has surgical scarring it is important that they know their rights.
In South Carolina, it is possible to receive compensation for permanent scars. Under our laws, a Commissioner may award an injured worker up to 50 weeks of compensation for serious scars or disfigurement that is located on the head, neck, or other body part that is normally exposed during employment. For example only, if a worker’s compensation rate is $300.00 per week and a Commissioner finds that he or she is entitled to full disfigurement benefits, that worker’s disfigurement benefit would total $15,000.00. (For questions regarding how a compensation rate is determined please ready my prior blog post: https://www.injurylaw-carolinas.com/2015/02/injured-cant-work-much-receive-week-work-benefits.html).
There are a few nuances to consider and, of course, you would need to discuss your specific case with your lawyer. First, it is important to bear in mind that not all scars are likely to be awarded compensation. If the scar is very minimal or is usually covered by your work clothing, its possible that it would not qualify.
Second, if you are awarded compensation for disability to a particular body part you generally cannot receive disfigurement benefits to that body part as well. By way of example, if you are awarded 10% disability to your hand for a work-related injury, you likely would not qualify for disfigurement compensation for that same hand. It is important to note that if you have a serious burn scarring or keloid (raised, ridged scars) it is possible to receive both disfigurement and disability compensation to the same body part.
Finally, disfigurement benefits are generally not awarded until after the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement. Practically, this means that I address disfigurement benefits only after my client has been released from all of his or her physicians. As always, each case is very different and would require individual consultation. Be sure to read my blog post regarding Maximum Medical Improvement or MMI to learn more about this very critical concept in South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims. (https://www.injurylaw-carolinas.com/2016/08/maximum-medical-improvement-workers-compensation-case.html).
In the event that the insurance company is not willing to provide a Claimant with adequate disfigurement benefits, it is generally necessary to request a hearing and undergo what is referred to as “a viewing” by a Commission. This is when a Commissioner independently views the Claimant’s body and determine if benefits are due. As a final note, in some circumstances, serious scarring may give rise to the need for an evaluation with a plastic surgeon or reconstructive surgeon to determine if there is a medical procedure or treatment that could lessen the injured worker’s scarring. This should be discussed with your lawyer.
If you have been injured on the job and have questions about what your case or simply need to find out if you have a case, call Grimes Teich Anderson at 864-421-0770 or contact us over the internet at www.gta-injurylaw.com. Initial injury consultations are free; it won’t cost you anything to speak with us. We have three convenient office locations in the Upstate of South Carolina: Greenville, Spartanburg, and Gaffney. At Grimes Teich Anderson we are committed to protecting the rights of hard-working South Carolinians.
Jeff Martin is a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney with Grimes Teich Anderson LLP