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…)