Ruling Expected to Help Thousands of Injured Workers Secure Greater Disability Benefits
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week declared a key provision in Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act “unconstitutional in its entirety” in its ruling on the case Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.
“This is the most significant workers’ compensation ruling in Pennsylvania in the past 30 years,” said Thomas C. Baumann of Pittsburgh firm Abes Baumann, P.C., attorney for the disabled worker who was the claimant in the case. “It could open the door for thousands of severely injured workers to receive benefits more accurately aligned with the extent of their injuries.”
“We are thrilled that Mary Ann Protz, whom experts have determined is unable to work due to her injuries, will now receive the full benefits she deserves for as long as she needs them,” Baumann added.
Protz had sustained a serious knee injury on the job that led to knee replacement surgery and subsequent reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Although an expert hired by the defendant’s insurance company found Protz “unable to perform any job that exists in the local or national economy,” Section 306(a2) of the Workers’ Compensation Act requires the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to utilize American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines in its Impairment Ratings Evaluations (IRE) to determine level of need. These guidelines set Protz’s level of disability at only 40%, capping her benefits.
“Commonwealth Court ruled and the Supreme Court has now affirmed that Section 306(a2), which delegates decision-making authority to the American Medical Association rather than the legislature, violates the non-delegation doctrine and is unconstitutional,” explained Baumann, who has been seeking justice for Protz since 2011.
The use of AMA guidelines in IREs has created hardships similar to Protz’s for injured workers not only in Pennsylvania, but across this United States. “This ruling likely will usher in a new approach to ensuring benefit levels are accurately aligned with individual workers’ injuries,” Baumann noted. “In addition to future cases, injured workers already on partial disability can consider filing petitions for total disability status,” Baumann said.
Abes Baumann was founded in 1979 as a workers’ compensation firm. Today, Abes Baumann has a reputation for making every client the priority across disciplines including workers’ compensation, veterans’ benefits, personal injury, and pro athletes.
For more information contact:
Thomas C. Baumann, Esq., 412-389-7403
Or visit: abesbaumann.com