Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down IRE provisions in Workers Compensation Act

Attorneys across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been waiting for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to clarify the status of the Impairment Rating Evaluation section of the Act, since the Commonwealth Court struck down provisions and remanded the case back to a Workers Compensation Judge.   The PA Supreme Court issued it’s decision as I sat in a workers compensation hearing around 11:30 AM this morning.   In Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), No. 6 WAP 2016, the Court struck down the IRE provisions of the Act as unconstitutional in it’s entirety.

To help you understand, let me first explain the IRE process.  First, and foremost, it is a process used to limit injured worker wage loss benefits.  The injured worker is examined by a doctor chosen by the Commonwealth for what is called an impairment rating evaluation.  The IRE exam is solely used to establish a whole body impairment.  If the IRE examination finds an injured worker to have 50% or less whole body impairment from the work-related diagnoses, then wage loss benefits are capped to 500 weeks (about 9 1/2 years).   A request for an IRE examination by the insurance carrier cannot occur until an injured worker has received at least 104 weeks (2 years) of total disability compensation. Don’t confuse this examination with an IME  (defense) examination.  They are entirely different.  IRE examinations are nothing more than a tool for an insurance carrier to limit wage loss benefits of the injured worker.  Additionally, the provision is also unfair because it is nearly impossible to get a 50% or more whole impairment rating evaluation, outside completely catastrophic injuries. (more…)

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PA Court: Issuance of a Medical-Only NCP in Workers Compensation differs from Acceptance and Subsequent Suspension of Benefits

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently distinguished between a Medical-Only Notice of Compensation Payable and an acceptance of a work injury and a subsequent Suspension of benefits, in Sloane v. W.C.A.B (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)  No 1399, C.D. 2014(Pa. Cmwlth. 2015). The relevant time lines are this:  An injured worker has three years after the date of the injury to file a Claim Petition to seek workers’ compensation benefits for the injury.  If a Notice of Compensation Payable (NCP) is issued…

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Commonwealth Court vacates decision on abnormal working condition standard

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has vacated a Workers Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) decision denying workers compensation benefits to an employee of store that was robbed.   By way of background, the injured employee was working at a store when the store was robbed.  The injured employee was assaulted as a result of the robbery and subsequently filed a workers compensation claim petition based on injuries sustained from the assault and mental distress from the robbery.   The Court agreed with the…

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Dog bite at work is within Course and Scope of Employment

One of the critical elements of proving a Claim Petition in Pennsylvania Workers Compensation is whether the injury occurred in the course and scope of  employment.   The course and scope element has been heavily litigated over the years and the rules are a bit clearer today.  However, at times, course and scope issues still arise. Recently the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court addressed the course and scope issue on a dig bite incident that occurred at work.  The facts are quite…

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