Default Ire Found Unconstitutional in Pa
On June 20, 2017, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Declares Impairment Rating Provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act to be Unconstitutional. The decision in Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District) means that injured workers will no longer be subject to a cap on the length of wage loss benefits they received.
In the 6-1 majority opinion authored by Justice Wecht, the Court concluded that the Pennsylvania legislature violated the state Constitution when it passed this provision because it (1) gave "unfettered discretion over Pennsylvania's impairment-rating methodology" to the American Medical Association, and (2) "did not include in ... any of the procedural mechanisms that this Court has considered essential to protect against 'administrative arbitrariness and caprice.'"
Before the decision, Section 306(a.2) of Act permitted employers to require an injured worker to undergo an IRE after receiving 104 weeks of disability benefits. If the IRE physician determined that the injured worker's whole body impairment was less than 50 percent, as determined by the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, the worker was limited to 500 weeks of future wage losses. The Court held that the delegation of the impairment determination was impermissible because only the legislature can make those decisions.
Anyone who has been subjected to an IRE should contact their attorney to discuss how this case affects their ongoing rights. This is true even if their benefits have already been modified or even suspended based upon the prior IRE.
Timothy D. Belt, Esquire
Helping injured workers in Northeast Pennsylvania.