By Jonathon B. Young | Esquire

Since the mid 1990’s the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act has allowed what is called “Impairment Rating Evaluations” (IRE’s). An injured worker (Claimant) who is out of work because of an accepted work injury could be forced to attend an Impairment Ratings Evaluation after his or her receipt of two years or 104 weeks of wage loss benefits.

The evaluation was performed by a qualified physician who was designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine the Claimant’s level of overall body impairment under the American Medical Association AMA Impairment Guidelines. 

In Pennsylvania a Claimant having a total body impairment rating of less than 50% under the AMA Guidelines would be relegated to “partial disability status”.  While this did not affect the amount of Workers’ Compensation indemnity benefits a claimant received each week, it did effectively cap their receipt of wage loss benefits to 500 weeks or roughly 9.6 years from the date of the Impairment Ratings Evaluation (IRE).

On June 20, 2017 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its decision in PROTZ v.  WCAB (Derry Area School District). In Protz, the Supreme Court found the Impairment Ratings Evaluations process to be an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. Although the retroactivity of the court’s ruling is not yet fully defined, the court’s ruling ends further modification of wage benefits by an IRE.

Specifically the decision held that Section 306(a.2) of the Pa. Workers’ Compensation Act was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.  The court’s opinion makes clear that the entirety of Section 306(a.2) is unconstitutional.  Therefore, effective immediately, the Department of Labor & Industry/ Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will no longer designate physicians to perform Impairment Rating Evaluations.

If your benefits have been modified as a result of a prior IRE, or you are unsure and have questions, pleasespeak to DBD Partner, AttorneyJonathan B. Young to determine your options.   All initial consultations are free of charge.  

At Dischell, Bartle & Dooley we stand ready to serve you in many areas of law.  Give us a call.