Disfigurement in Illinois Workers’ Compensation

Section 8(c) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides for benefits for work-related scarring and disfigurement. Specifically, recovery is provided for “any serious and permanent disfigurement to the hand, head, face, neck, arm, leg below the knee or the chest above the axillary line…”

So, what exactly is “disfigurement” in terms of workers’ compensation? The Illinois Supreme Court has defined disfigurement as “that which impairs or injures the beauty, symmetry, or appearance of a person or thing; that which renders unsightly, misshapen, or imperfect, or deforms in some manner.” The Court stressed that the disfigurement must be “serious and permanent,” noting that it was not intended under Section 8(c) “to authorize compensation for every trifling mark that could be discovered by the closest inspection.” Superior Mining Co. v. Industrial Comm’n, 309 Ill. 339, 340 (1923).

Evaluating disfigurement is a highly subjective task. According to the Act, the amount of compensation for disfigurement can be determined by agreement at any time or by arbitration at least six months after the date of injury. Recovery is based on a number of weeks, paid at a rate of 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage, subject to the caps stated in the Act. The recovery determination should be made after there has been sufficient time for healing. Generally, both parties will make arrangements for a scar viewing at least six months after the date of injury, and will negotiate settlement based on the appearance of the scarring. The employer or its agent may wish to wait longer to obtain maximum healing. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, the employee may be brought before the Arbitrator for his or her informal evaluation and settlement recommendation prior to a formal Hearing.

If an employee is awarded compensation for disfigurement under Section 8(c), he or she cannot also be awarded compensation for loss of use to the person as a whole, specific loss, or permanent total disability benefits for an injury to the same body part.

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Thanks to attorney Allison Mecher for this informative overview.

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