You’ve been on workers’ compensation for a couple of years. Things are going pretty smoothly. Your compensation checks usually arrive on time. Your medical bills are paid. Most importantly, the insurance company is not hassling you. You open your mail and you see an official-looking paper from workers’ compensation called “Impairment Rating Evaluation Appointment”. What does this mean and what should you do?
What is an IRE?
An Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) is a special physical examination which may be requested by the insurance company. It is different from an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME), which the insurance company may orchestrate for the purpose of cutting off your compensation or forcing you back to work before you are healed. An IRE is different. Although you will be sent to a doctor, issues of your physical abilities and returning to work will not come up at the IRE.
Instead, the IRE physician will examine you, apply “guidelines” established by the American Medical Association, and calculate the percentage of your impairment. In virtually every case, the impairment will be less than 50%. This sub-50% impairment will enable the insurance company to file paperwork changing your disability status from total, to partial. This is important. The IRE will limit the length of time that you can receive workers’ compensation checks, even if you can never work again. Even if the Social Security Administration has found you disabled, or even if you are receiving disability insurance benefits, the IRE will eventually stop your workers’ compensation checks. The IRE will limit the maximum amount of time that you can receive workers’ compensation checks to 500 weeks.
What Can You Do?
A person who receives an Impairment Rating Evaluation Appointment form should contact an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation lawyer. The insurance company may not have the right to send you to the IRE physician. There may be technical defenses available which can prevent the insurance company from obtaining the IRE examination and forcing you down the road to cutting off your compensation checks.
A person who has already been through an IRE appointment and received paperwork should also contact the workers’ compensation lawyer. There are options to challenge an IRE even after it has happened.
The IRE process has been challenged before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The IRE process may be unconstitutional and illegal. One Pennsylvania Court has already ruled that the IRE law is unconstitutional. That ruling has been appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Lawyers who represent injured workers are hopeful that the Supreme Court will rule, once and for all, that the IRE process is unfair and unconstitutional, and wipe it off the books.
If you have concerns about an IRE, or any other questions about your workers’ compensation case, you should contact the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Pepicelli Youngs and Youngs, PC.