In June of this year, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declared Section 306 (a.2) of the Workers' Compensation Act unconstitutional, in a landmark case that will reverberate throughout the Commonwealth. Thanks to the ruling striking down this section, injured workers are no longer arbitrarily limited to 500 weeks of partial disability benefits.
Section 306 (a.2) allowed insurance carriers who provide workers' compensation insurance to require an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) after a worker received 104 weeks of temporary total disability (TTD) benefits expire. If the IRE found that the worker was less than 50% impaired, his or her partial disability benefits would be limited to 500 weeks, even for injuries expected to last much longer than that. Since about 95% of injured workers do not clear this arbitrary 50% threshold, this effectively functioned as a cap on benefits for the vast majority of claimants.
While 500 weeks may seem like a long time for an injured worker to receive benefits, the reality is that many on-the-job injuries continue to affect the worker for a lifetime. Thanks to the Supreme Court's decision, a significant weapon has been taken out of the insurance companies' arsenal. They can now only terminate, modify or suspend benefits by proving that the injured worker has fully recovered or is capable of returning to work.
Injured workers affected by this decision need to seek immediate legal counsel
Exactly how this decision affects ongoing claims is not yet completely clear. What is clear is that injured workers need an experienced workers' compensation lawyer to guide them through the changes to the process as a result of this decision.
If you have previously been subjected to an IRE, contact a skilled workers' compensation lawyer right away to discuss how this decision affects you. You may be entitled to additional workers' compensation benefits. If you have an IRE scheduled, we recommend that you do not attend. Instead, contact an attorney right away to discuss the most advantageous way to move your claim forward.
The workers' compensation attorneys at O'Malley & Langan Law Offices are currently reviewing dozens of case files to determine how our clients are affected by this decision. If you have had or are scheduled for an IRE, we would be more than happy to schedule a free consultation and help you find out how this decision affects your benefits.