We were talking to a potential client the other day, and the client mentioned in passing about a scar that she had from the work injury. Like many injured workers, she did not know that a scar can actually be compensable. She believed, as many injured workers do, that one must be disabled to receive any workers’ compensation benefits in PA. This is simply not correct.
We have discussed scarring and disfigurement on this blog in the past. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, in Section 306(c)(22), “serious and permanent disfigurement of the head, neck or face, of such a character as to produce an unsightly appearance, and such as is not usually incident to the employment” is compensable, regardless of whether there is or was any disability involved in the work injury. This is one of the few areas of the law (along with determination of penalties) where a Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) has wide latitude to make an award. A WCJ can order payment of anywhere from zero to 275 weeks of benefits for disfigurement.
The three key aspects to a disfigurement, or scarring, claim, is that the disfigurement be “permanent,” that it be “unsightly,” and that it be on the head, face or neck. Generally, we start talking about permanence after about six months. As to “unsightly,” it can be helpful to simply interpret that as “noticeable.” And, as noted, scarring on the back, chest, or an extremity is not compensable – the disfigurement must be of the head, face or neck. The appellate courts in PA have interpreted this to mean the scarring must be above the collarbone.
Notably, the scar does not have to have taken place in the original injury itself, though that is often the case. There could have been facial injury from a work-related motor vehicle accident, an object striking the injured worker’s head, face or neck, or some other type of injury to those areas. However, often the scarring resulted from treatment for the injury, rather than the injury itself. This is most often seen with cervical surgery.
So, if you, or someone you know, has had scarring to the head, face or neck as a result of a work-related injury, give us a call, so we can see if we can obtain benefits for you. Like almost any aspect of law, there are time frames for when such an injury must be pursued. We would urge you to act immediately, so valuable rights are not lost.