Facial scarring from work-related injuries can be particularly distressing because of the change to the individual’s facial appearance. Though these injuries can have a psychological effect on anyone, individuals with occupations that require an attractive appearance may experience an increased level of trauma. Besides the effect on one’s superficial appearance, scar tissue is not as flexible as normal tissue; therefore, mobility around the injury might become limited.
The type of scar that develops after a facial injury depends on the severity of the injury, and other external factors like the age and health of the individual. These different types of scars have varying levels of treatability:
- Hypertrophic scars. These scars are usually more responsive to treatment, even though they often start out red, thick, and raised. However, hypertrophic scars may improve naturally over time, and can be treated with methods such as laser therapy, dermabrasion, and topical lotions.
- Keloid scars. Keloids form from collagen that is produced by the body after an injury occurs. They are thick, raised scars that are not harmful to an individual’s health, but can cause great psychological distress due to their appearance. They are also harder to treat compared to other scars.
- Contractures. Contractures are an abnormal occurrence that occurs after an injury with a large surface area. The scar pulls the edges of the skin together, causing tightness in the injury area. This affects mobility permanently. Contractures can be treated with surgery; the scar area is removed and then a skin graft is affixed to the affected area.
A doctor might recommend laser treatment, dermabrasion, surgical procedures, steroid injections, radiotherapy, or topical treatments to reduce the appearance of scarring. The successful outcome of these treatments depends on the type of scar; certain scars are more treatable than others in terms of reducing the scar’s appearance.
When an individual’s facial appearance will be permanently affected due to a burn, scar, or other injury that changes the facial anatomy, this is known as disfigurement. When disfigurement occurs to the face, head, or neck, the injured individual may be entitled to compensation if the injury occurred at work. The injured individual could receive a schedule award, or compensation for the period that the individual will be affected by their injury. Because disfigurement is permanent, the amount of compensation may be calculated in different ways. These decisions are made upon consideration of the amount of wages that will be lost due to the injury or scarring. The maximum award is $20,000.00.
Qualifiers When Evaluating the Potential Loss of Wages from Permanent Facial Injury or Scarring
In general, compensation for facial injuries and scarring is evaluated based on the estimated loss of wages over time. There are a number of factors taken into consideration when evaluating how a facial disfigurement will affect the individual’s future wages:
- Age. The younger an individual is, the greater the valuation of the claim.
- Permanency. If the scar is treatable or can be removed or improved with surgery, the valuation of compensation will be lower. However, if a scar’s treatment prognosis is not hopeful, then the valuation will be higher.
- Location of the scar. Scars that are very prominent or will greatly influence the future facial appearance of the individual will be considered more severe, and thus may lead to greater compensation.
- Severity. The severity of the injury or scarring will be taken into consideration when evaluating the financial value of the claim.
Other Required Guidelines When Evaluating Facial Disfigurement for Workers' Comp
Other evaluations performed on the disfigurement, according to medical guidelines from the State of New York Workers’ Compensation Board:
- Permanent scars to the face and disfigurement should be evaluated one year after the injury, or one year after the last surgical procedure was performed.
- Scars and disfigurement to the face/neck are measured as the region above the clavicle.
- The scar should be described using qualifiers such as length, width, color, contour, and exact location.
- Disfigurement to anatomy on the face such as eye, ear, nose, and mouth should also be noted.
If an individual receives a facial injury that may lead to scarring while at work, they should seek medical attention and have the medical profession evaluate the severity of the injury. If the injury will be permanent and will affect the worker psychologically and/or physiologically, the worker may be eligible for compensation. The worker could receive compensation for the associated medical costs, and these medical costs may not be only for treatment of physical effects: the individual may seek psychological counseling for the emotional effects of a facial injury. As such, compensation may also be due for the emotional distress and trauma caused by the injury. Additionally, facial injuries and scarring may be eligible for additional compensation because the worker may face future loss of income due to difficulty finding or keeping employment following the disfigurement.