Scarring Award for Chemical Spill Victim; Fairfax Judge Renders Quick Disfigurement Decision

A “big box” stocking clerk was injured when a loose cap caused caustic liquid to spill on his face and shoulder. The ABRAMS LANDAU workers compensation team had succeeded in getting this gentleman under the protection of an Award for his medical care and lost wages. While his negligence (product liability) case settled earlier this year (see tomorrow’s post), Herndon Virginia job injury lawyer Doug Landau nevertheless sought an award of permanent partial disability (“PPD”) compensation based on an alleged severely marked disfigurement of his body. To win such an Award, lawyer Landau had to prove that the injured employee reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”) for purposes of the disfigurement claim in Fairfax at last week’s Hearing. Even though the highly paid insurance defense lawyer did not spend the money to have the claimant evaluated by a doctor or perform a “records review,” the claim was defended with the phrase, “the claimant has the burden of proving any severely marked disfigurement of his body.”

Chemical Causes Painful Permanent Injury at Work

In order to win on a claim of permanency, there must first be a formal finding of “Maximum Medical Improvement” by the doctor, and, in cases other than scarring, a formal Permanency (%) Rating pursuant to the AMA Guidelines. A tuxedo is NOT required!

The testimony at court indicated that the container of chemical floor stripper was being placed onto a six-foot high shelf. According to the judge, “The claimant testified that the container leaked causing the product to drip into his eyes and onto the right side of his face, his right arm and his right shoulder…his skin was peeling off, and that he was transported to Fairfax Hospital before being transferred to Washington Hospital Center, where he was hospitalized for approximately nine days.” The hard part for injured workers to understand is that scarring Awards can only be up to 60 weeks. Furthermore, the judge has to make a subjective assessment of the permanency, unlike the objective orthopedic measurements used in rating arms, legs and eyesight. Lawyer Landau often remarks, “permanency is in the eye of the beholder. The judge must see the scars in order to make a permanency Award.”

What the Virginia Workers Comp Judge Observed

The Fairfax Virginia Workers Comp judge had the injured worker come up to the bench so that he could observe and measure the scars. The Fairfax County Judge wrote:

We initially observed the scars on the claimant’s head, and noticed some raised areas of scar tissue over the claimant’s right eye, on his forehead and down onto his right cheek. The scar tissue is raised and obvious and clearly visible to the naked eye, but these scars are remarkably well healed as compared to the photographs taken shortly after the injury. We also observed a very large raised scar approximately 4 to 5 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide on the claimant’s right shoulder. This scar tissue is significantly raised off of the surrounding skin, and is a much darker pigment than the surrounding skin. The scar on the claimant’s shoulder is also obvious and clearly visible to the naked eye. We lastly observed an approximately 2 to 3 inch long and 1 to 2 inch wide scar on the deltoid region of the claimant’s right arm.


The result ? The Fairfax workers comp Hearing resulted in an Award of 50% with the written opinion coming about a week after the trial. At this claimant’s comp rate, this translates into 30 weeks of compensation, starting on the date in February of 2014 when the treating doctor wrote the finding that his patient had reached “Maximum Medical Improvement.” Since this worker had a comp rate of $399.96, this translates into payments totaling $11,998.80. The attorney fee Award was $1,800 and the costs (including the permanency report and physical examination) were $1,500.