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Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court rules impairment ratings are invalid

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on June 20, 2017, decided to modify a longstanding law that has governed how workers’ compensations benefits have been awarded over the past 20 years. Based on the high court’s ruling, workers who are severely injured on the job will now be able to qualify to receive benefits more closely aligned with the injuries they suffered.

Up until the court’s decision during the latter part of June of this year, state workers’ compensation insurance carriers relied heavily on the guidelines established by the American Medical Association (AMA) to limit the benefits that would be paid to injured workers. 

Beginning in 1996, these carriers had the authority to require injured workers to see a doctor for up to two years post-incident. In order for workers’ compensation carriers to know how much to compensate an employee for their injuries under this old plan, it required doctors to assign an impairment rating.

That percentage of impairment assigned to the worker during that evaluation was to be aligned with the guidelines established by the AMA. Using that criteria, any worker who received an impairment score of below 50 percent would be labeled as having suffered only a partial injury. If they were labeled as such, they would only be eligible to receive compensation for up to 10 years.

With the new criteria, it appears that it’s possible for workers with older injury cases to qualify to file injury claims for more than that 10 year period. These individuals were precluded from doing so under the previous legislation. Now, all workers with previous cases, whether they were assessed above or below a 50 percent rating, may now qualify for retroactive workers’ compensation benefits.

If you were injured on the job and you’re wondering how this shift in laws might apply to your case, you should contact a Dauphin, Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation attorney to better understand your rights as it relates to filing a claim.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Ruling on workers’ comp opens up benefits to injured workers in Pennsylvania,” Daniel Moore, accessed July 24, 2017

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