Facial disfigurement is the only aspect of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act under which a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) has the discretion to award anywhere from zero to 275 weeks of workers’ compensation benefits. Since such injuries can range from barely noticeable to tremendously disfiguring, these cases vary widely in the amounts awarded. Note that the scarring can be traumatic, or from a work-related surgery. After a WCJ views a scar, and renders a decision, either side can appeal the decision to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB).
What the WCAB can do with this decision was recently addressed by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Keister Miller Investments LLC v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Hoch). Here, the injured worker (Claimant) was involved in a work-related motor vehicle accident wherein he suffered a broken nose and a laceration to the right side of his head.
A Claim Petition was filed, seeking compensation for the facial scarring. After viewing the scar, and describing it for the record, the WCJ granted the Claim petition, finding, as required, that the “work-related injury resulted in a serious and permanent disfigurement of Claimant’s face, which is of such a character as to produce an unsightly appearance and not usually incident to the employment.” In so doing, the WCJ awarded 40 weeks of benefits.