Recent Supreme Court Ruling Will Drive Up Costs of PA Workers’ Comp Claims

October 6, 2017

If you’re an employer who is subject to a workers’ compensation claim from a previously injured employee, the cost of doing business – and defending yourself – just went up. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled in June of this year that employers will now be able to request what is called a “permanent impairment evaluation.” During this evaluation, a licensed physician and care provider will determine the ultimate degree of impairment that an injured employee has undergone in accordance with the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act.

This decision reverses a 1996 law that that previously required doctors to utilize and apply the methodology and criteria set forth in the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

Why did this change in Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation Law take place?

In 2007, a person who sustained a work-related injury was evaluated based on the American Medical Association guidelines and determined to be partially, not fully impaired. The employee in this case let the workers’ compensation Appeal Board know that she disagreed with the American Medical Association’s diagnosis, and her lawyer argued the constitutionality of enforcing the rule that all impairment decisions be implemented in accordance to the AMA guidelines.

While the Appeal Board didn’t rule favorably to this employee, a Pennsylvania court rejected that decision. Finally being granted certiorari in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the case was heard. The Supreme Court decided this June that requiring adherence to AMA guidelines was unconstitutional, and found that, “this mandate violates the constitutional requirement that all legislative power be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

What does this mean for me?

If you’re an employee that has been injured in a work-related accident, making sure you find the best doctor possible who can fairly and accurately decide your level of impairment might be more difficult and varied than it would have been previously. Without the standardized set of guidelines from the AMA as the codified decision maker, you might be unfairly diagnosed as partially or fully impaired when you are actually permanently impaired. Without specific medical knowledge, you are at the mercy of the physician or care provider you are working with. If you have gone to a care provider or physician and felt that they haven’t been completely fair with their diagnosis, it’s best to seek another opinion, or to contact your Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer.

At Larry Pitt & Associates, we guide an injured worker through each stage of the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation process. Our Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys know how troubling and life-changing a work-related injury can be, and we want to help make you whole and play our part in your continued health. To speak with a compassionate lawyer, please call 888.PITT.LAW or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We fight for workers injured in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.