In Pennsylvania, specific types of injuries often dictate the amount of benefits the injured party will receive and the length of time he or she will be eligible for benefits. For example, if an injured worker loses a finger, toe, hand, leg or other appendage in a work-related injury, he or she may be entitled to a certain number of weeks of compensation.
Interestingly, "facial disfigurement" resulting from a work-related accident may be compensable by up to 275 weeks of workers' compensation benefits in Pennsylvania, at the discretion of a Workers' Compensation Judge. But what exactly constitutes facial disfigurement?
The dictionary defines "disfigurement" as, "an appearance that has been spoiled or is misshapen." According to the law, the disfigurement must be both permanent and "unsightly."
However, there is an exception to every rule, and because the "unsightliness" of the injury is left to the subjective interpretation of a Workers' Compensation Judge, not every claim of facial disfigurement may hold weight in the courtroom.
Take, for example, one Pennsylvania worker who was injured when she fell down the steps and broke her nose. The injury to the nose was accepted and she received workers' compensation benefits until she returned to work. However, upon seeking facial disfigurement benefits for her now crooked and scarred nose, the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board rejected her claim.
After looking at pictures of the woman's face before the accident and comparing those photos to her face after the accident, the WCAP admitted that the nose was now slightly crooked. However, they disagreed that the damage was "unsightly" and found that no benefits were available for the disfigurement of her nose.
Still, many workers' compensation claims for disfigurement are warranted. Being burned or undergoing amputation because of a work-related accident can result in serious physical and emotional trauma. The victim not only suffers from acute physical pain following the incident, but must also cope with the long-term consequences of his or her injuries. If you are injured in a work-related accident that results in disfiguration, compensation for necessary medical and psychological care should be justly sought.
Source: Workerscompensation.com, "PA Court Says Crooked Nose Not Unsightly," July 5, 2012.
Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Philadelphia workers' compensation page.