Many people ask about whether they are entitled to any money for scarring that is the result of a work accident. The answer is yes but is it really in your best interest to ask for it?
A rating for scarring comes under the same Code section as the loss of use ratings, §65.2-503, which is entitled, “Permanent Loss.” This means that the scarring has to be permanent. It is not determined from when your injury first happened but rather how the area looks when it is as good as it is going to get. Also, if you have an opportunity to get a loss of use rating, often, you are better getting the loss of use rating. The most you will get for a scarring rating is 60 weeks but the potential ratings for loss of use are often much higher. You do have to pick between loss of use and scarring. You will not receive both.
A loss of use rating is given by a doctor. Then, the amount of money you get is determined by taking whatever percentage of loss was given to you by the doctor and multiplying it by the total value of that extremity. This is not the case in a scarring rating. To determine the value of a scarring rating, someone at the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission has to see the scar. This is usually a Deputy Commissioner at a hearing but can be a Claims Examiner. The Deputy Commissioner must determine whether the scarring is a “severely marked disfigurement.” They look at the scar and make a determination of how big the scar is, how noticeable the scar is, and what affect they think that the scar will have on your life. Then, they assign a value of the number of weeks you are entitled for the scar. There is no mathematical formula, it is just an opinion, and scarring ratings are not usually very high.
If you are wondering whether you are better off with a scarring rating or a loss of use rating, the answer really depends on what body part you injured and what your loss of use is. Someone with facial scars has to ask for a scarring rating because they cannot get a loss of use rating. Additionally, someone who suffered an arm burn and had skin grafts taken from their legs to treat the arm burn probably has full use of both arms and legs. Therefore, they would be better asking for a scarring rating. However, someone who suffered a shoulder injury who, despite being as good as they are going to get, cannot lift their arm above their head, would be better off asking for the loss of use rating.
If you do not know if you are better off asking for a loss of use or a scarring rating, I recommend that you contact us or another workers compensation attorney.
Lorraine D’Angelo, Esquire, Injured Workers Law Firm