Last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a law that limited workers’ compensation claims for over 20 years. Signed in 1996, the law required those receiving workers’ compensation to see a doctor after 2 years for a re-evaluation of their injuries. It required physicians to follow specific guidelines to assign each injury a percentage value. If an injury's value was under 50 percent, insurance companies could slash payments and cap benefits to 500 weeks.
Opponents of the law argued that it is slanted toward the interests of businesses and allows them to escape responsibility for providing injured employees with long-term care. They stated that due to the guidelines physicians are required to use, workers rarely received an injury rating above the 50 percent threshold needed to get full benefits. Supporters of the law, mostly business groups, claim that it protects businesses from inflated costs.
The court ruled that the law was an unconstitutional use of state power to control insurance benefits funded by taxpayers. When the law was struck down, it enabled injured workers who were injured during the previous 20 years to re-file a claim for workers’ compensation.
Follow-Up Medical Examinations Reintroduced in PA
Recently, Governor Tom Wolf signed a law that once again requires a follow-up medical evaluation to determine future benefits for a worker's injury. Business groups pushed for the measure and claim it corrects issues created since last year’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. A 6 percent increase in benefits since 2017 is referenced as the main problem being corrected by the law.
The new law closely resembles the original. However, it lowers the cap on injury percentage to 35 percent. If an individual’s injuries are determined to be above the 35 percent threshold, they will be able to receive continued benefits. Though the law is more lenient than its unconstitutional predecessor, certain injured workers will still be blocked from receiving benefits. Insurers already have an arsenal of tools to limit benefits for injured workers, and they have just had an old favorite returned to them.
If you are having trouble getting workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania, call Handler, Henning & Rosenberg today at (888) 498-3023 for a free consultation. We have a Certified Legal Specialist in Workers' Compensation Law on staff, and we've won tens of millions for clients.