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Decision in Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board a Milestone in Pennsylvania

Decision in Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board a Milestone in Pennsylvania

A recent decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could have a long-lasting effect on workers’ compensation in the state.

Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board centered on the use of a medical examination, known as an impairment rating evaluation (IRE), that would cap exposure on long-term workers’ compensation claims.

IREs existed before June 20, 2017, and generally worked in this manner: when a claimant received 104 weeks of total disability benefits and reached maximum medical improvement, the employer could request an IRE. A doctor would be assigned to perform this evaluation. If, under the guidelines set by the American Medical Association, the doctor determined the claimant’s injury caused less than 50 percent whole-body impairment, the workers’ compensation benefits could change from total to partial disability status.

Court’s ruling leads to considerable changes

The decision in Protz changed all this. The court found the IRE process to be unconstitutional, saying that the legislature does not have the power to delegate its authority to hand down impairment rating guidelines to a nonlegislative body such as the American Medical Association.

As a result of the ruling, the IRE process no longer is part of the workers’ compensation claims process in the state. This makes it more difficult for employers to place caps on workers’ compensation benefits when the employee has already received 104 weeks of temporary total disability benefits and achieved maximum medical improvement. This has the effect of increasing the value of lump sum settlements or “buy-outs” in workers’ compensation cases.

For more specific information about how the Protz decision could influence your workers’ compensation claim, meet with an experienced Pennsylvania attorney at Rudberg Law Offices, LLC. Call us at 412-488-6000 or contact us online today.Protz decision