Pennsylvania workers’ compensation for most workplace injuries or illnesses includes medical coverage and weekly wage replacement. But a worker may also be entitled to “specific loss” or “disfigurement” benefits for injuries that that result in permanent loss of function or leave permanent scars.
Specific Loss Benefits
Thankfully, most workplace injuries heal over time, allowing a worker to get back to work without permanent injury. However, specific loss benefits apply if you suffer a compensable workplace injury that results in permanent loss of function.
This can include amputation or permanent loss of use of certain body parts as well as loss of hearing or vision. Only specific body parts potentially qualify for specific loss benefits.
To qualify, you do not have to lose all use of the affected body part. But you must have suffered a permanent loss of function for daily and work purposes. For example, you may have a permanent loss of function if you injured your hand and cannot pick up anything or use a computer but can still move your fingers slightly. Disputes often arise between workers and insurance carriers over whether a loss of function has occurred.
If you qualify for specific loss benefits, you will receive a set number of weeks of compensation. For example, for permanent loss of your leg, you receive 410 weeks of compensation. For your index finger, you receive 50 weeks. Loss of hearing in both ears entitles you to 260 weeks of compensation.
The amount of your total compensation depends on your average weekly wage. The higher your average weekly wage, the more compensation you receive in the form of specific loss benefits.
You are also entitled to disability benefits for a specific number of weeks during a “healing period.” The healing period is pre-determined. For the loss of your leg, you are allowed a 25- week healing period during which disability benefits will be paid.
Severe injuries often result in permanent scarring or disfigurement. When this is the case, a Pennsylvania worker may be entitled to disfigurement benefits up to a maximum of 275 weeks of compensation. Only disfigurement to the head, neck, or face is eligible for these benefits.
The disfigurement does not have to be the result of the original injury. Instead, it can be caused by surgery required as a result of the original injury. A workers’ compensation judge has discretion to award up to 275 weeks of benefits based on personal observation and opinion.