Cutting Off Benefits at 500 Weeks Is Ruled Unconstitutional

Personal Injury Blog

If you have been told that your workers’ compensation wage loss checks are capped at 500 weeks, call Handler, Henning & Rosenberg immediately—you may be entitled to additional benefits!

For years, employers and insurance companies have relied upon a section of the Workers’ Compensation Act to put a cap on injured workers’ benefits. Through a process called an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE), employers had been permitted to stop payments to an injured worker after 500 weeks of wage loss checks have been paid.

On June 20, 2017 the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania confirmed that the section of the Act permitting these this practice is unconstitutional. As a result, employers are no longer able to cut off benefits at 500 weeks based upon an IRE.

What Does This Mean for My Benefits?

If your situation sounds like any of the following, this decision affects your case:

  • If your wage loss checks have stopped within the last 3 years based upon an IRE
  • If a workers’ compensation insurance carrier has informed you that your 500 weeks is up soon
  • If you have recently attended an IRE or been scheduled to see an IRE physician

Call Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLP now to speak with one of our Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys. You may be entitled to have your benefits reinstated or extended. Contact us as soon as you can—our team can be reached at (888) 498-3023 or through our short online form.

What Is an IRE?

An Impairment Rating Evaluation is a test used to grade (in percentage form) how much a person is impaired by their disability or injuries. The test is based upon the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Pennsylvania law requires physicians to use the latest edition of this AMA guide when making evaluations that affect the worker’s benefits.

The law states that when a person is found to have more than 50% impairment, they are presumed to be “totally disabled.” Less than 50% impairment means their injury status can be graded down from total to partial—which then triggers the 500-week countdown clock on their benefits.

The Court took issue with the fact that the AMA is a private, non-legislative body that has the unlimited power to create their own policies, which then the law enforces carte blanche. The judges found this to be an unconstitutional transfer of legislative power from Pennsylvania lawmakers to the American Medical Association.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision is a victory for injured workers and advocates for a better workers’ compensation system.

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