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What are the Effects of the Protz Decision on Workers' Comp Cases?

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision in the case of Protz v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Protz) is already influencing workers' compensation cases across the state in a big way. The removal of impairment-rating evaluation (IRE) reshapes workers' compensation law for the Commonwealth. The Protz decision will be applied to every case that is currently in litigation. But it can also be applied to cases that have long since been resolved. Let's take a look at the impact on each of these types of cases.

Ongoing Cases

Each workers' compensation case is unique. The implications of Protz can be applied broadly to any ongoing litigation about capping workers' compensation benefits following an IRE, however.

If an employer or insurer has petitioned for an evaluation, obviously that is no longer a legal avenue available to them. The Bureau of Workers' Compensation has issued a statement saying they "will no longer designate physicians to perform Impairment Rating Evaluations." The employer or insurer should withdraw their petition. Any appeals in such cases should also be withdrawn. 

What if the IRE has already been performed and a determination has been made? Those determinations are no longer valid. Petitions and appeals related to a cap on benefits should be withdrawn. Employers will need to reevaluate their position and may seek to settle.

Past Cases

The question of how Protz applies to cases that have been concluded is less clear. It will likely take years of litigation to settle the matter, but until then, many workers may be able to petition for reinstatement of benefits. There are a few different scenarios in which the decision could be applied to a past case.

If a claimant's benefits were automatically capped following an IRE and the claimant didn't appeal at the time, they may be able to file a petition to reinstate their benefits due to the Protz decision. Under the old law, a claimant had 60 days following a change in status to appeal, but Protz calls into question the legality of the original status change.

If a claimant's status was changed by the order of a workers' compensation judge, a claimant may file for reinstatement even if they didn't appeal the original judgment or the appeal was denied.

    In any of these situations, the employer or insurer will most likely argue that the claimant waived their rights by failing to appeal or by accepting an agreement in the first place. This is ridiculous, and an injured worker cannot give up their rights just because an unjust law made them think they didn't have them in the first place. 

    If you had a workers' compensation case in the past that was resolved through the now-eliminated process of impairment-rating evaluation, you deserve to have your case heard again and possibly have your benefits reinstated. But to do that, you'll need help. Dugan & Associates has decades of experience serving injured workers. If you have questions or you need representation, contact us for a free consultation today.

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