3 Requirement to Get Workers Compensation Disfigurement Benefits

In Beisswanger v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (NGK Metals Corp.), 808 A.2d 984 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2002) the claimant argued that a finding of permanency of his disfigurement could not be made, absent medical evidence, until the workers' compensation judge (WCJ) had viewed the claimant's scar and that the three-year statute of limitations did not run until that date.

In rejecting this argument, the Court reiterated the following:

To establish entitlement to disfigurement benefits under Section 306(c)(22) of the Act, a claimant is required to prove that the alleged disfigurement is:

(1) serious and permanent;

(2) of such character as to produce an unsightly appearance,

(3) not usually incident to the claimant's employment.

He must also establish that he has complied with the time limitation set forth in Section 315 of the Act. Beisswanger, 808 A.2d at 986.

Yet the Court stated in Guthrie v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Keystone Coal Co.), 767 A.2d 634, 636 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001) (quoting Smith v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Concept Planners & Designers), 543 Pa. 295, 300, 670 A.2d 1146, 1148-1149 (1996)), that Sections 315 and 413 of the Act function differently:

Section 315 functions where no prior legal action has commenced; however, section 413(a) functions as a means to halt further legal action following prior legal action and the award of a remedy.

Since section 413(a) operates to cut off future remedies in a case with a history rather than to halt initiation of a new case with no history, it operates in a way that, practically speaking, extinguishes a remedy rather than a right.

The claimant's case in Beisswanger had no prior history; conversely, the claimant's case in Guthrie included a history of prior legal action and an award.