Category Archives: workers compensation basics

Scarring And Workers’ Compensation: Myth Vs. Truth

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris, from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

It might be mighty cheesy to dispense legal advice by citing a bad, sappy love ballad from 90’s alternative rock; but the Goo Goo Dolls put it perfectly when they said, “Scars are souvenirs you never lose.” In the case of scars, burns or disfigurements that resulted from a work injury, a scar is a souvenir (courtesy of your employer) that you never lose, that you also never wanted.
Very often, clients are confused about the laws governing scarring, disfigurement in the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation system. Here is a brief list of some of the truths and myths about scarring, loss of function and disfigurement.

MYTH: “I can be paid for my scar regardless of where it is on my body.”

TRUTH: The insurer must compensate you for a scar; but only for a scar that appears on your hands, neck or face. Any scar that is visible to your hands neck or face is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Statute. Section 36 of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Statute is the section that governs compensable scars and disfigurements. Burns and other types of visible disfigurements are also covered under this section. A visible walking-limp is also a type of compensable disfigurement under this section.

MYTH: “In order to receive money for my disfigurement, I needed to have lost significant time at work.”

TRUTH: You do not have to have missed work in order to receive payment for compensable scars. In fact, the vast majority of claimants seeking payments for scarring have not missed any significant time (or any time at all) as a result of their scar. This is particularly true with claimants who work in the food preparation industry. Cuts and burns are the most common injury in those types of jobs. If you cut or burned yourself while working in a kitchen, you do not have to have missed any time at work to receive payments for the lasting disfigurement.

MYTH: “My scar needs to meet a certain minimum length in order to be compensable.”

TRUTH:  All scars, regardless of length, are compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Statute. As long as the scar is on your hands, neck or face it will be measured and calculated to determine how much your payment will be. Also, you can be compensated for every scar you receive to a compensable part of your body in one injury. Multiple scars are all collectively compensable.
Check back next week for part two in this series on scarring, disfigurement, and Massachusetts law.

Pain And Suffering: Not Part Of Your Settlement

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

I absolutely echo Ryan’s sentiments about pain and suffering. There are no pain and suffering damages under the Wisconsin worker’s compensation law! However, the law in Wisconsin is different than Massachusetts regarding the eligible compensation benefits, ranging from loss time benefits (temporary total disability), to permanent disability benefits, to loss of earning capacity and vocational retraining benefits. Please visit our website (www.domerlaw.com) or call us directly for more information about specific benefits under Wisconsin worker’s compensation law.

The worst part of my day as a Workers’ Compensation attorney is unquestionably the time when I need to explain to my clients that Workers’ Compensation does not include pain and suffering in a settlement. Inevitably, the look from the client is always the same. It’s the exact look I would give to my lawyer if he were saying the things to me that are coming out of my mouth to them. It’s a look that begins as disbelief then turns into anger.

Disbelieve it all you want; Pain and Suffering literally does not exist in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation. There are an abundance of reasons and explanations for this. None of the reasons and explanations make it right. However, it’s something every injured worker must live with.

 

Disbelieve it all you want; Pain and Suffering literally does not exist in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation…None of the reasons and explanations make it right. However, it’s something every injured worker must live with.

An explanation of what pain and suffering actually is makes it easier to understand how it doesn’t exist in Workers’ Compensation. Pain and suffering is a remedy that is only available to victims of personal injuries that resulted from the fault of another party. Workers’ Compensation does not have pain and suffering because it is a fault-free system.. You do not have to prove that your employer was at fault or that its negligence caused you to become injured. You simply need to prove that you were disabled as a result of an injury that took place at work. Fault is irrelevant. Though not needing to prove fault to receive workers’ compensation benefits is clearly a good thing, it comes with a hefty price. Unfortunately because fault is irrelevant, so is pain and suffering.

As you will undoubtedly hear from friends and family members, personal injury cases that settled for a lot of money did so because their attorney was able to prove that they had significant pain and suffering. Without pain and suffering, it often becomes difficult for workers’ compensation cases to settle for comparable amounts to a fault-based personal injury case. This makes it much more important that you know each and every benefit that is available to you if you are hurt at work.

Because pain and suffering does not exist in workers’ compensation, you must maximize the benefits that do actually exist. Workers’ compensation is what is known as a “wage replacement system.” Very simply, the only money the insurer is responsible for paying you is any wages that you may lose. You can receive wage replacement benefits for up to seven (7) years unless you become permanently and totally incapable of working.

The only other monetary benefit available to an injured worker besides the wage replacement benefits is if you sustain any permanent loss of function to a body part. This can be determined by your doctor. If your physician finds that there is a permanent percentage of loss of use to your injured body part, the insurance company will likely be responsible to pay you additional benefits. This, however, is hardly a substitute for pain and suffering.