Can I get Disfigurement Benefits in Pennsylvania Workers Compensation?

Pennsylvania injured workers may be eligible for disfigurement benefits under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (here in referred to as ‘Act’). However, it is important to know that these benefits are quite specific.

What is the law on disfigurement?

First and foremost, disfigurement benefits are limited. Just because you have surgery for your work injury and have a scar does not entitle you to disfigurement benefits. They are only applicable for scarring or disfigurement to the hand, neck, and face. Again, just because you have a head, neck, or facial scar, does not immediately make you eligible for disfigurement benefits.

Second, the Act further defines disfigurement and scarring to the neck, head, and face in terms of it must be ‘serious, permanent, and unsightly”. Obviously, given those words, that determination can be quite subjective. Who decides if those parameters are met? A Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) will determine if scarring or disfigurement meets the ‘serious, permanent, and unsightly’ definition.

What benefits are provided for disfigurement?

If a WCJ determines that you did sustain a serious, permanent, and unsightly disfigurement, then you may be eligible for an award. That award can be between 1 to 275 weeks of the compensable rate. Again, that determination will be made by a WCJ. The Act does not specifically provide an amount. It is in the sole discretion of the WCJ. Interestingly, benefits could be awarded for s scar from cervical surgery. However, the surgery had to be an anterior cervical surgery, meaning in the front of the neck. If the cervical surgery went from the back of the neck, the scar would not be eligible.

How are the number of weeks determined?

A hearing would be held before a WCJ. The hearing would be in-person because the Act requires that the WCJ observe and describe the disfigurement on the record at the hearing. Once the WCJ determines the scarring is related to the injury, the Judge must decide if the scarring is “permanent”. Permanency here means that it has lasted for more than six months. Then the WCJ must determine if the scarring is unsightly. It is important to remember though that the WCJ could determine that the disfigurement does not meet the ‘serious, permanent, and unsightly’ standard and therefore the WCJ could award nothing. Obviously, the more severe the scarring the more weeks would be awarded. Additionally, even if you did not miss any work from the work injury, but you have scarring that a WCJ believe meets the definition, you would still entitled to that award.

A final word on disfigurement benefits and hope for the future.

Any scarring or disfigurement can be devastating to an injured worker, not just on the head, neck, or face. Right now though, that is all the Act provides. It is not fair. However, House Bill 930 has been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  This bill would expand disfigurement beyond the head, neck, and face and increase the maximum award from 275 weeks to 400 weeks. These changes are long overdue from the outdated provision of the Act. What can you do? Contact your State Senator to support HB 930. You can also link here Senator Devlin J. Robinson who is the Chairman of the Senate Labor & Industry Committee. That is where HB 930 currently sits.

If you have suffered a work injury, suffered scarring or disfigurement from a work injury, you do not need to fight the battle alone. Call Mooney Law for an absolutely free consultation. Call us today at 717-200-HELP or 717-6325-4656. You can also email us direct at info@mooney4law.com to schedule a consultation. You can visit our website and complete the Schedule a Consultation form. Feel free to Like my Central PA Workers Comp Facebook Page.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.