New Workers' Compensation Ruling
A monumental new decision was recently issued by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has forever changed the way that injured workers are protected, and for the better. In Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School District), No. 6 WAP 2016 and No. 7 WAP 2016, 6/20/2017, the Supreme Court declared Section 306(a.2) of the Workers' Compensation Act unconstitutional. Section 306(a.2) provided that, after paying for 104 weeks of total disability benefits, an employer could request that the claimant submit to an I.R.E., or an impairment rating evaluation, to determine the claimant's degree of impairment. If that degree of impairment is deemed to be less than 50 percent, then a claimant's amount of compensation would be reduced to 500 weeks. Because of this holding, no I.R.E. has any force in the state of Pennsylvania at present.
There is a wide variety of workers who should pay attention to this enormous change in WC law. The most obvious are those who are currently scheduled to undergo an I.R.E. in the near future. Likewise, any injured worker who is concerned that they may be subject to an I.R.E. in the future will be greatly impacted by this decision. Lastly, those whose cases were affected by an I.R.E. in the past, even if their case is closed, may have recourse. At present, Cohen, Feeley, Altemose & Rambo is examining past cases which have been negatively affected by an I.R.E. and proceeding to re-open them in reliance on this ruling. Given that the Supreme Court ruled Section 306(a.2) to be completely unconstitutional as improperly delegated, there is a strong argument that any I.R.E. is retroactively void.