Clients sometimes ask, “What is an Impairment Rating Evaluation?” An Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) is a determination of a worker’s whole body impairment by a physician of a, which considers work-related diagnoses. An IRE may be requested once an injured worker has received 104 weeks (2 years) of total disability compensation. The sole purpose of an IRE is to establish a whole body impairment so that employers and insurers may place a ceiling on their financial exposure for a work injury. An IRE has nothing to do with the treatment of a work-related medical condition.
The Impairment Rating Evaluation permits an employer to limit liability for future wage loss benefits based upon a medical expert’s opinion of impairment. To pursue this remedy, specific requirements must be met. First, the injured worker must receive 104 weeks of total disability payments. Once this occurs, an employer may file a request and assign a designated medical expert, who conducts an examination to determine if the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement.
If a rating is 50% or higher, a worker will be presumed to be totally disabled and continue to receive total disability compensation. However, this presumption of total disability may be challenged at any time by a demonstration of earning power under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act.
If the impairment rating is less than 50%, the disability status of the worker converts from total disability to partial disability for 500 weeks. This assumes the IRE request is filed within 60 days of the 104th week that the claimant has received disability benefits. If the request is not filed within 60 days after the 104th week, a petition to modify status must be filed. This process requires a different procedure than a timely request made during the 60 day window. In this situation, it is also more difficult to modify benefits. Absent the agreement of the parties, a request for an IRE before the expiration of the 104 weeks is not permitted.
Since the only medical evidence introduced for the resolution of this matter is the report of the IRE physician, in the absence of contrary medical evidence, the IRE petition is often granted. Because many injured workers fail to reach the 50% threshold despite having permanent injuries, as a result of an IRE, a worker with permanent injuries may lose benefits after 500 weeks.
For 110 years, Powell Law has litigated Pennsylvania workers compensation actions and obtained benefits for injured Pennsylvania workers in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. Consult an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE!