PA Supreme Court Ruling: Injured Worker Impairment Review Evaluations are Unconstitutional

Date: July 19, 2017

Ruling to create havoc for employers, increase costs, disrupt workers’ comp system

HARRISBURG (June 22, 2017) – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a section of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act is unconstitutional because guides used by physicians for determining an employee’s level of disability come from a private source – the American Medical Association. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which represents 14,000 small businesses in Pennsylvania said the ruling puts employers in the untenable position of being unable to determine if an employee is permanently or just partially impaired and whether their benefits should continue. 

“Small businesses with a limited staff already have a difficult time when an employee goes on temporary disability. This court decision prevents a doctor’s review of that worker’s progress and their ability to return to work,” said Kevin Shivers, executive state director of NFIB PA. “This decision by the Supreme Court throws employers, and the state’s workers’ comp system into total turmoil and significantly raises costs.”

The case, Protz v WCAB (Derry Area School District), involved an employee who hurt her knee on the job. After temporary total disability leave and benefits, the worker was later evaluated by a physician and found to be only 10-percent disabled. Her status was changed to reflect a partial disability and the duration of benefits became limited. The employee challenged the evaluation.

“As a result of the court’s decision, employees found by licensed physicians to be just minorly disabled, are now likely to head to the courthouse seeking a reinstatement of full disability benefits,” said Shivers.

Due to the ruling, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is immediately stopping the process of designating physicians to perform Impairment Rating Evaluations.

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