In a recent decision the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the use of American Medical Association guidelines to determine whether an injured employee is partially or totally disabled violates the Pennsylvania Constitution. The decision ends a practice that had been in place since the Workers’ Compensation Act became law over 20 years ago.
Since becoming law in 1996, the Workers’ Compensation Act allowed employers to require an injured employee receiving workers’ compensation benefits to have an “Impairment-Rating Evaluation” (IRE) by a doctor. Doctors doing IREs were required to use AMA guidelines to determine the amount the employee is impaired. Impairment ratings were from 0% to 100%, with 0% being entirely unaffected by the injury and 100% being affected to the point of being unable to work. If the employee was found to have an impairment rating of less than 50%, their employer could request to have the employee’s disability status changed from total to partial, reducing the duration of workers’ compensation benefits to no more than 500 weeks.