Can I get an award for a work-related scar?

by Karl Voigt

Can someone injured at work get an award for a resultant scar? Yes, if that scar is to the head or neck, whether the client has been injured and scarred in an accident, or has had work-related surgery resulting in scarring.

§306(c)(22) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act allows for an award of benefits for permanent scarring to one’s head or neck (above the clavicle) due to a work injury. The act allows for an award of up to 275 weeks of compensation. What that means is that even the absolute worst scar you can imagine is limited to that figure.

This is one area of the acts that allows for a wide and unpredictable range of awards, as an injured worker with a scar can get anywhere between 0-275 weeks, with no table or formula to rely upon.

The math is easy: the award is the number of weeks times your weekly Workers’ Compensation rate. If your weekly rate is $455, and your award is 20 weeks, the dollar amount of the award is $9100.

This figure can be negotiated with the insurance company or litigated before Worker’s Compensation Judge, who has broad discretion to award up to 275 weeks of compensation. As every case is different.

Time is a course of the essence. The statute of limitations for filing a claim is three years. There is a general presumption that a scar is permanent some six months after the injury or surgery.

Generally, this sort of claim requires the filing of a Claim Petition, although a settlement can be negotiated with the Workers’ Compensation insurance company before you file the petition. It is important to be prepared before attempting to secure an award. Whether negotiating with the insurance company or litigating before a judge, it is important to secure a physician’s written opinion that it is indeed a permanent scar. The report should also describe the scar. You should also have photographs of the scarring available, as well as perhaps photographs from before the injury.

If a petition must be filed, the judge will have to view the scar and rule on the number of weeks he or she feels is suitable.

Naturally, if you have work-related scarring, it is wise to consult with an attorney before pursuing a claim for benefits.

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