What Are Workers’ Compensation Disfigurement Claims?

May 13, 2024
Shelby Troy

Are You Entitled to Benefits?

Generally, in Pennsylvania, workers who are scarred and/or disfigured in an accident or injury within the course and scope of their employment, may be entitled to disfigurement benefits. To qualify for disfigurement benefits, a worker need not be disabled from working. In fact, a worker may still qualify for disfigurement benefits even if he or she was scarred or disfigured and never missed a day of work.

What Qualifies as a Disfigurement?

Workers who sustain scarring or disfigurement of the head, neck, or face, in the course of their employment may be entitled to compensation. To qualify as a scar or disfigurement, the scar must be serious, permanent, unsightly, and not typically incident to the type of work he or she performs.

  • Head, neck, or face: Any scarring or disfigurement below the collarbone or clavicle is not compensable, meaning, the scarring or disfigurement must be from the neck up.
  • Serious & permanent: A scar or disfigurement is serious and permanent when the scarring or disfigurement remains for more than six months.
  • Unsightly: A scar or disfigurement is “unsightly” when it is unpleasant to look at or noticeable in a negative way.
  • Not Incident to Employee’s Work: Certain occupations present an increased risk of sustaining work-related injuries that could result in scarring or disfigurement. However, this is both very case and fact specific.

In addition to compensation for scarring and disfigurement as a result of a work injury, workers in Pennsylvania can also be compensated for surgical scars from surgeries performed to correct or repair a work injury.

What Type of Benefits Can You Receive?

An injured worker can receive benefits for up to 275 weeks. A worker’s weekly benefits depend upon his or her pre-injury “average weekly wage”. The average weekly wage is calculated using a formula and is based upon a worker’s earnings over the year prior to the injury and/or disfigurement. Depending upon the amount a worker has earned, he or she will receive a percentage of that number, which can be as high as 90% of your pre-injury average weekly wage for relatively low-earning workers or around 66 2/3% for the average worker.

How are Benefits Determined?

A Workers’ Compensation Judge will ultimately determine if a worker is entitled to disfigurement benefits. If the Judge determines that a worker is entitled to these benefits, he or she will also determine how many weeks of benefits the worker would be entitled to, up to the 275-week maximum mentioned above. To make this determination, the Judge will have the opportunity to observe a worker, either at an in-person hearing or via virtual hearing, where the Judge will have the opportunity to view the scar or disfigurement at issue. Generally, the more “unsightly” or significant the scarring appears to be, the more likely the Judge is to award a higher number of weeks of benefits. Conversely, a small scar that has little effect upon a person’s appearance would likely net less benefits to a worker, if any.