Will I get paid for permanent scars through workers’ comp?

States have different rules for compensating employees who've been left with scars or other disfigurement as a result of work-related injuries.

Question:

I was in an accident several months ago at the chemical plant where I work. Because of some failed safety equipment, I got some pretty bad chemical burns on my arms. Fortunately, my arms still function for the most part. But I have very noticeable scarring. I’m embarrassed by the scars and avoid wearing short-sleeve shirts or anything else that might expose my scars. Will I get compensated for this through workers’ comp?

Answer:

In most states, workers’ compensation provides benefits for permanent scarring or disfigurement resulting from work-related injuries or from treatment for those injures (such as surgery). However, your eligibility for these benefits and the amount you’ll receive depend on the state you live in.

In some states, permanent scars are factored into a worker’s permanent disability rating. For example, in California, the doctor who assigns you a permanent disability rating (stated as a percentage from 0% to 100%) will take into account any scarring or disfigurement. In other states, workers can receive a one-time payment for scars or disfigurement, up to a maximum amount set by law. For example, in Massachusetts, a worker can receive up to $15,000 for certain scarring and disfigurement.

The location of the scars may also be relevant in determining whether you’re entitled to compensation. In most states, you can receive compensation for scars on the face, head, or neck. Some states also allow workers to recover for scarring on arms, legs, or any other body part that would be exposed under certain circumstances (in a swimsuit or at work). However, a few states provide workers’ comp benefits for scars to limbs and other body parts only if the scar causes a loss of function or limits the worker’s ability to find employment.

In your case, because the scarring is to your arms, there is a good chance that you’ll be entitled to some compensation through workers’ comp. For help getting the compensation you’re entitled to, you should consult with a workers’ comp attorney in your area.

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