Sometimes, workplace injuries result in what are known as specific losses — when a body part is lost in some way due to the accident. Specific loss injuries come with alternative compensation to the standard wage loss benefits that you are likely familiar with.
What Counts as a Specific Loss Injury?
Specific loss injuries can take a few forms. The most clear-cut of these injuries is when a body part is severed. For example, if you were to lose a finger in a machining accident. The second form these injuries can take is when the use of a body part is lost for all practical intents and purposes, but the part itself is not necessarily severed. An example of this would be if your hand was crushed in an accident, resulting in you losing the ability to move it.
Beyond those two main types of specific loss are two additional types. The first of these comes in the form of scars or disfigurement on the neck and head. These injuries do not involve the loss of a body part or its use but are still treated in a similar fashion as far as compensation is concerned. And the final kind of specific loss has to do with the loss of vision or hearing due to your work environment. These are often the hardest of the specific loss injuries to prove or quantify.
How are Specific Loss Benefits Applied?
The compensation you receive for specific loss injuries is based on both your pre-injury average weekly wage (AWW) and the body part you lost. First, you will need to determine your compensation rate based on your AWW. Second, you need to multiply that amount by the number of weeks of compensation you are entitled to based on the body part lost. Each lost body part comes with a set number of weeks’ worth of compensation except head and neck scars and disfigurement and hearing and vision loss. Those injuries work on a sliding scale, which means the more serious they are, the higher the number of weeks of compensation you may receive.
Lastly, each specific loss injury, with the exception of scarring and disfigurement, also comes with a healing period. These healing periods outline how much additional compensation an injured worker can receive while they are healing from their injury before returning to work. However, they represent the maximum number of weeks you will receive compensation for while out of work healing.
What this means is that if you lose a toe, but are able to return to work after only 1 week of healing, you would only be eligible for that 1 week of additional healing period compensation rather than the maximum of 6. On the other hand, if you were out of work for 7 weeks, you would only receive additional compensation for 6 of those weeks.
Possibility for Limited Recovery
Specific loss cases sometimes enable you to recover benefits beyond the period of your disability (in the event you have a separate and distinct injury from the specific loss that is disabling). However, it is also possible that the specific loss provisions of the Act can cause you to recover less money than you would have been entitled to under the disability sections of the Act. This is sometimes used by the insurance carriers to try to limit their financial responsibility. For example, if you cut off a finger and that is your only injury, there is a limited recovery under that statute even if that loss prevents you from ever going back to the type of work you have been doing your entire life.
Specific loss cases can be complicated and troubling. It is very important that you get good legal advice before agreeing that you have a specific loss.
My name is Geoffrey Hillsberg, and I have been solely practicing workers’ compensation law in the State of Pennsylvania since 1995. If you have been injured on the job, please contact my law office today. I will fight for your right to compensation after a workplace injury.
The advice offered above is general in nature and may not be applicable to every case. Consultation with an attorney is highly recommended. Reliance on this advice does not represent the formation of an attorney-client relationship in the absence of a fee agreement with Mr. Hillsberg.