Workers commonly suffer injuries that leave them with permanent scars. One question that we are commonly asked is whether they are legally entitled to compensation for them under North Carolina workers’ compensation laws. The issue is extensively covered by both statutory law and legal precedent. In some cases, workers who have sustained permanent scarring may be entitled to compensation.
Injured Workers Can Get Benefits for Scars Under Certain Circumstances
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation act provides a schedule of injuries, and the associated payments that injured workers may receive for them. In many cases, the payments are expressed in a percentage of wages along with the number of weeks for which an injured worker may receive benefits when it comes to scarring.
North Carolina law allows for certain payments up to a fixed amount for permanent scarring. The legal theory is that the injured worker has suffered some reduction in their earnings power because of the scarring.
Instead of receiving weekly benefits, the injured worker would receive a one-time payment. The law limits payment for permanent scars on the face or head to $20,000. Note that the law includes the use of the word “or.” North Carolina courts have interpreted this to mean that an injured worker can receive separate compensation for scars on their face and head.
In other words, if there are scars on both of those parts, they may receive payment up to $40,000. If any other permanent scarring is not covered by any other section of the workers’ compensation law, the injured worker may receive a maximum of $10,000.
The accident victim could receive compensation for both facial scars and scars on the rest of their body, meaning they could receive up to $30,000 in certain instances. You may also be awarded payment for scarring in conjunction with other benefits when you have suffered other injuries.
Unfortunately, the amounts in the statute have not been adjusted in a long time. Recent inflation has eaten away at the value of a dollar, and workers may end up being underpaid for the scars they have suffered. In the meantime, injured workers can and should seek every penny they deserve as the law allows.
Scarring Must Reduce Workers’ Future Earnings Capacity
North Carolina workers’ compensation cases are often focused on the impact that the scar would have on the victim’s ability to earn a living. For example, one victim was awarded financial compensation when they sustained severe scars on their leg and plans on a career that requires them to wear shorts often. The visual effect of the scar could make the employee a lesser job candidate or affect their ability to advance in a job.
The fact that the law provides for compensation for permanent scarring does not mean that an accident victim will automatically be awarded the money. For example, if the scar is on a part of the body that is not visible, the victim may be denied compensation. In one case, The Court of Appeals denied compensation to an injured worker whose chest was burned by scalding hot water because that part of the body was not visible when they dressed for work.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission Would Still Decide the Claim
Before workers can be awarded compensation for scars, they must file a claim for compensation. North Carolina’s Industrial Commission will review the case to determine whether compensation is necessary and how much the victim should receive. They have the discretion to decide the case. The only case where they lack discretion would be when the victim has suffered severe facial scarring. In these cases, the victim would be presumed to have reduced earning power because of the change in their appearance.
Finally, some cases where there is permanent scarring may be treated as a disability that allows for weekly payments rather than scaring that requires a one-time lump sum. If the accident victim no longer has full use of the part of the body that is scarred, they may be entitled to recurring benefits for a certain period of time.
However, these cases are not always straightforward. The insurance company and the Industrial Commission are often unpredictable and may take a hard line as to what is considered a scar that reduces earnings power. They may look at your wages and employment after the injury and use it as a reason to deny the claim.
Like every other workers’ compensation case, you have a legal right to appeal. The insurance company does not have the final say over your case, and you have a right to be heard. You should contact an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your legal rights and to obtain help with your claim for benefits.
Contact a Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
The law firm of Horton Mendez knows the North Carolina workers’ compensation system and provides vigorous and determined legal representation for our clients with claims. We understand what it takes when you need to take on the system. We offer free consultations to prospective clients to discuss your case.
Call us today at (910) 668-8067 or message us online to learn more about how we can help you.
Workers’ Comp FAQs
Is a denial the end of the road for my workers’ comp claim?
No. You have a legal right to appeal the denial of your claim, and many appellants are successful in overturning the denial.
How do I pay a workers’ compensation attorney?
We work on a contingency basis, meaning we would receive part of your recovery if your case is successful. You do not need to pay upfront.
Is there a limit on workers’ compensation benefits?
North Carolina statute limits workers’ compensation benefits to 2/3 of your salary for a certain number of weeks.