Who Judges an IRE

By: Douglas A. Williams

In IA Construction Corp. v. WCAB (Rhodes), a very important case decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on May 25, 2016, the Court determined that a Workers’ Compensation Judge has the right to reject the opinion of a physician performing an Impairment Rating (IRE) exam – even when the injured worker offers no evidence to rebut the IRE physician’s opinion.

In Rhodes, the injured worker had sustained a traumatic brain injury. Subsequently, the employer required the injured worker to undergo an IRE, which was performed by Dr. Lateef, who is board certified in physical rehabilitation and pain medicine. In the view of the Workers’ Compensation Judge, Dr. Lateef performed only a cursory evaluation of the condition that resulted from the injured workers’ traumatic brain injury. For this reason, she rejected his testimony as “not credible.” Had the Employer persuaded the Judge to accept Dr. Lateef’s testimony, the period during which the injured worker could receive benefits would have been limited.

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court reversed the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s decision and found, in essence, that the Judge erred in rejecting testimony that was un-contradicted. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court and reinstated the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s opinion. The Supreme Court noted that the Commonwealth Court had conflated the concept of whether or not a physician is “qualified” to offer an opinion with whether or not the physician’s opinion is “persuasive.” The Supreme Court reiterated that the Workers’ Compensation Judge is the ultimate arbitrator of whether or not a witness’s testimony is persuasive.

The injured worker in the Rhodes case was represented by attorney Thomas Baumann of Abes Baumann.

An Uber Accident

By: Roger D. Horgan

Have you stopped to wonder what will happen if the Uber driver has an accident either while you are in the vehicle, or if he strikes your vehicle? Like any new technology, ridesharing applications like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have created novel legal issues. First are the questions concerning legal responsibility and insurance coverage when accidents occur. Fundamentally, these are privately owned vehicles driven by individuals, not taxi’s owned by a company and driven by an employee of that company. In the case of a taxi accident, the taxi company is responsible for the negligence of its drivers under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The ridesharing companies contend that they are simply computer applications which bring independent drivers together with those who are seeking transportation. They contend that the drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and therefore claim that they are not responsible to answer for the conduct of the drivers.

While all drivers are supposed to have automobile insurance in Pennsylvania, the reality is that many people drive without insurance, and that many more carry the minimum liability coverage required by law ($15,000.00). Those utilizing the ridesharing services, and those injured by the drivers of those services, are at significant risk that the driver lacks any insurance, or adequate insurance. In reality, the likelihood is that the driver would lack any insurance because his insurance company will refuse to answer for acts that take place during the course of driving for the ridesharing service.

Luckily, these concerns are being taken seriously in Pennsylvania, and there is legislation pending that is intended to address the complexities that arise from the use of ridesharing services. Among the groups that have had a significant influence upon the contents of this proposed legislation is the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, of which the lawyers of this firm are members. There is a high likelihood that the proposed legislation will be passed in one form or another, and that it will address the ridesharing issues in a comprehensive fashion. While the personal insurance coverage of the passenger or other victim will remain critically important, this legislation, if adopted, will eliminate the gaps in coverage that currently exist, and will continue to exist if legislation is not adopted.

Currently before the Pennsylvania Senate is Senate Bill 984. This legislation proposes to fix some of the issues encountered in an accident with a rideshare company. The ridesharing company must be registered and licensed in the Commonwealth. There is a one-time application fee of $50,000.00 to obtain such a license. The company will be required to keep accurate records, and to maintain a website available for Pennsylvania customers to review. They will be required to maintain liability insurance in excess of that required by individuals in the Commonwealth. In particular, once the driver signs on to the ridesharing app he will be covered by insurance for bodily injury in the amount of $50,000.00 per person/$100,000.00 per accident. In addition, he will be covered by $25,000.00 for property damage. Once the driver actually picks up the passenger he will be covered by $500,000.00 per accident for bodily injury, and $25,000.00 in medical coverage for the passengers. Further provisions of Bill 984 assure the safety of the vehicles being used for this service, that the drivers have their criminal and driving backgrounds thoroughly vetted, and that unsafe vehicles and drivers be prohibited from driving for the ridesharing companies. There will be a zero tolerance rule for drugs and alcohol. There will be a nondiscrimination provision with respect to disabled persons. The drivers will be permitted to obtain fares only through the ridesharing app, and will be prohibited from direct solicitation, and from accepting cash payment for rides.

There is no doubt that the ridesharing services are here to stay, and Pennsylvanians will be well served if Bill 984 or similar legislation is adopted and becomes the law.

All Hell Breaks Loose in Sex Abuse Lawsuit

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from www.independent.com

The Carpinteria Community Church routinely ignored and covered up reports of sexual abuse committed by one of its youth ministers, a lawsuit filed Tuesday claims.

The lawsuit also alleges that the church’s corporate parents, including the Presbytery of Santa Barbara and Presbyterian Church USA, harbored another sexual predator who molested multiple victims over the course of 30 years as he was transferred to different parishes in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and around the country.

“The Presbyterian Church has always held itself as different from the Catholic Church,” said attorney Tim Hale about how the two institutions treat offenders within their ranks. “They say the right things, but this is a classic case of actions speaking louder than words.”

Hale is representing a single plaintiff in the civil complaint, a former member of the Carpinteria Community Church who says youth minister Louis Bristol preyed on her during religious retreats and when he counseled her about her parents’ divorce.

Bristol joined the church in 2000 as a teenager, and after he graduated high school, he started working for its “worship team” in 2004. That year, the lawsuit states, a church employee received a report that Bristol was having an inappropriate relationship with the 16-year-old victim.

But no calls…

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