A proposed law to bring impairment ratings evaluations back into the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation system was introduced on Oct. 2 by Representative Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin).
In June 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s impairment rating process was unconstitutional. Known as House Bill 1840, the proposed legislation would reinstate the two-year or 104-week marker for permanent disability, at which point the insurer could demand an impairment evaluation rating.
The court’s decision focused on the General Assembly’s unconstitutional delegation to the American Medical Association (AMA) of “the authority to establish criteria for evaluating permanent impairment.” The AMA guidelines placed a cap on benefits available to seriously injured workers, and the court’s decision eliminated the use of that cap. The bill is currently before the Labor and Industry Committee, chaired by Kauffman.
Impairment Ratings Evaluations
Medical impairment ratings for Workers’ Compensation range from zero to 100 percent. For practical purposes, impairment rating evaluations of over 50 percent indicate total disability. An individual’s impairment rating evaluation determines how long he or she might receive benefits, the amount of compensation received and whether that person should eventually return to work.
Lower impairment ratings may determine if an injured worker can return to another job at the company, even if the position does not pay as well as the job held prior to the injury. Workers with this lower level of impairment are considered partially disabled. These evaluations take place after “maximum medical improvement” is reached, meaning the worker is unlikely to continue recovering.
The Mary Ann Protz Case
Mary Ann Protz of Westmoreland County, severely hurt her knee in a fall at work in 2007. Her employer, the Derry Area School District, began paying her temporary disability benefits. In 2011, Protz underwent an impairment rating evaluation at the school district’s request. The evaluating physician gave Protz a 10 percent rating based on AMA guidelines. Since her impairment was under the 50 percent threshold for total disability, the school district then filed a petition changing Protz’s disability status from total to partial.
The Workers’ Compensation judge hearing granted the district’s petition, but Protz appealed the decision to the Workers Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). Her attorney argued that the General Assembly’s delegation of AMA guidelines to establish permanent impairment evaluation was unconstitutional. The WCAB rejected that argument, but Protz then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which reversed the WCAB’s decision.
Philadelphia Work Accident Lawyer Jeffrey S. Gross Represents Workers Who Lost Benefits Due to Faulty Impairment RatingsIf you were permanently disabled on the job but received an AMA guideline impairment rating of less than 50 percent, your benefits are capped after 500 weeks, or 9.5 years. If you have lost benefits or will lose them soon, contact a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Gross. We will investigate the possibility of undergoing a new impairment ratings evaluation and extending your benefits. To schedule a free initial consultation at or Philadelphia offices, complete our online form or call 215-512-1500 or 267-589-0090.