Compensation for permanent disfigurement may be available to an employee who sustains a work injury that causes potential wage loss. The disfigurement must be on an area of the body exposed during employment. Disfigurement is not limited to visible scars and amputations. For example, in some cases, a limp may be considered a compensable disfigurement.
Generally no disfigurement claim exists for an employee who returns to work for their pre-injury employer with no wage loss. If an employee has not returned to work for his or her pre-injury employer, the employee must show that the disfigurement could potentially cause a future wage loss.
Typically the Department of Workforce Development Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assesses the disfigurement at a prehearing conference without vocational expert testimony. Factors to be considered when assessing disfigurement are set out by Wisconsin law and include, the employee’s age, education, training, work history, occupation, appearance of the disfigurement, location and visibility. If either party is dissatisfied with the assessment of the ALJ at the prehearing conference, a formal hearing is set with a different ALJ.
The maximum recovery for a disfigurement claim is one year of the injured employee’s average wages, not to exceed the employee’s maximum annual earnings for the year of the injury, and not to exceed the maximum annual wage set out by Wisconsin statutes. The maximum annual wage for 2014 is $82,050.00.