The Pennsylvania Supreme Court shook up the landscape of Workers Compensation in Protz v. WCAB (Derry Area School Dist.) — a broad and sweeping decision. The decision wholly invalidated Section 306(a.2) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, thereby eliminating the impairment rating evaluation (“IRE”) structure. Under the structure of Section 306(a.2), claimants were evaluated and given a permanent impairment percentage in keeping with the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment published by the American Medical Association (“AMA Guides”). The court found that this structure, essentially delegating legislative authority to the AMA, violated Article II, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Under the now-invalidated IRE structure, employers were entitled to compel an IRE within 60 days of the claimant receiving 104 weeks of temporary total disability benefits. At the IRE a physician would perform the IRE with strict adherence to the AMA Guides and none of their individual discretion. If this evaluation found the claimant to be less than 50% impaired, the Claimant’s benefits were limited to an additional 500 weeks of temporary partial disability, thus putting an expiration date on the claimant’s benefits.
The full impact of the Protz decision is yet to be determined, as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court did not address what many people believe to be the most important question: whether courts should apply the decision retroactively. This leaves open the possibility that previously performed IRE’s may be challenged as unconstitutional. In light of this, claimant’s attorneys should aggressively assert these arguments in order to reinstate temporary total disability status.
If you have been subject to an IRE in your workers’ compensation case, you should reach out to an experienced attorney for advice on how to proceed given this new decision. Please feel free to contact the Law Offices of John D. Pallante P.C. regarding your case at (215) 985-0976.