In June 20, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (7-1) struck down the system under which Employers had been able to avoid paying most injured workers wage loss benefits for more than about nine and a half years. Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, Western District of PA, PA Supreme Court, No. 6 WAP 2016 and No. 7 WAP 2016 (2017). In 1996, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law that permitted Employers to require injured workers who have received 104 weeks of wage loss benefits to undergo an “impairment rating” medical examination performed in accordance with the most recent edition of the impairment guidelines set by the American Medical Association (AMA). If an employee was not found to be more than 50% impaired, a very high burden, he or she could receive no more than 500 weeks of additional benefits from the date of the evaluation. Needless to say, the AMA can make new impairment guidelines anytime it wants, and there is no policy overview of any changes made by the AMA’s privately chosen experts. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court therefore ruled that the law constitutes an unconstitutional delegation of power from Pennsylvania lawmakers to a private organization.
Any injured worker who has undergone an Impairment Rating Evaluation should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney immediately. We at Fenner & Boles would be happy to help.