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2006 Issues

IRE Update

In Schachter v. WCAB, decided by the Commonwealth Court on October 12, 2006, the Court ruled that an impairment rating evaluation, resulting in a medical opinion that a workers’ compensation Claimant had been assigned a permanency rating for the work-related disability, should not attach res judicata for purposes of precluding the employer from seeking a subsequent termination of compensation based on a medical opinion that the Claimant has fully recovered from the work injury.


House Bill 2738 – Amendments to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act

On October 24, 2006, House Bill 2738 received a 198-0 vote by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, with the bill having already been approved by the Senate, subject to minor revisions. Governor Rendell has signed the Bill, amending the Workers’ Compensation Act to include the following amendments.


Loss of Consortium

A recent Superior Court Opinion, rendered on July 31, 2006, in the case of Urmann v. Rockwood Casualty, is a must read for casualty and workers’ compensation practitioners given that the issue involves a trial court approving a third party settlement that resulted in a higher settlement of the loss of consortium claim than the underlying personal injury claim.


Compromising Child Support

Effective September 5, 2006, child support arrearages cannot be compromised or ignored in settlements of personal injury or workers’ compensation claims. The Domestic Relations Code (specifically Section 4308.1) has been amended to establish that a child support arrearage will constitute a lien against the proceeds of any claim for settlement of or award for damages in bodily injury or death cases.

This amendment was scheduled for implementation as of September 5, 2006.


The Check Is in the Mail

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Romaine v. WCAB, decided on June 22, 2006, analyzes a critical fact dispositive to raising a Statute of Limitations defense to a Claimant seeking reinstatement of compensation following a Judge-ordered termination of compensation.


House Bill 2738: Amendments to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act

On June 26, 2006, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 2738, which adopted proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. The House Bill will be next submitted to the Pennsylvania Senate for proposed passage and execution by the Governor for enactment into law.


Home Alone: Compensability of Injuries that Occur When Working at Home

Although certainly not an issue of first impression, the compensability of injuries that allegedly occur while an employee is working in their home necessarily triggers the deepest and darkest suspicion of all but novitiate workers’ compensation practitioners. This very interesting issue was revisited by the Commonwealth Court in its May 31, 2006 ruling in Verizon v. WCAB (Austin), in an opinion authored by Judge Jubelirer.


Supersedeas Reimbursement Update

Two recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court rulings could well have an impact on your Supersedeas reimbursement practices. The rulings were rendered in Department of Labor and Industry v. WCAB (Excel Logistics), 890 A.2d 1045 (Pa. 2005) and in Snizaski v. WCAB (Rox Coal Company), decided on February 22, 2006.


Understanding Employer’s Liability

In the normal course of adjusting worker’s compensation claims under traditional worker’s compensation insurance policies, there is little call for or need to understand Part B coverage, titled as “Employer’s Liability.” It is a standard coverage incorporated into NAIC-issued insurance policies.

Part B is a form of coverage that is intended to protect employers from common law liability that might arise under circumstances that are generally limited to the inapplicability of “no fault” workers compensation laws providing employers with statutory immunity from civil liability, or which might involve legal actions in which employers might not be entitled, or there are questions regarding the entitlement to, the statutory protection of worker’s compensation laws.


IREs Under Gardner

With the ten year anniversary of Act 57’s enactment on June 24, 1996 fast approaching, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s December 28, 2005 Opinion in Gardner v. WCAB (Genesis Health Ventures), affirming the Commonwealth Court’s Decision, cited at 814 A.2d 884 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003), continues to illustrate the rich and fertile procedural tug-of-war between claimants and employers over the Act’s practical implications.