Workers’ comp: What is an Impairment Rating Evaluation?

Workers’ compensation is an invaluable program to employees who are injured on the job. Serious injuries can have long-lasting effects on the employee’s ability to work and, therefore, provide income for them and their family. Workers’ compensation is there to mitigate these effects but, when they can, insurance companies will seek to limit the money they must pay.

What are impairment ratings?

Impairment ratings are a system used within Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law to classify the level of disability the employee has suffered. Generally speaking, an injury is rated as either a total or partial disability. If the impairment is rated at 35% or greater, it is deemed to be a total disability – if it is less than 35%, it is a partial disability. The rating itself has no impact on the amount of a workers’ compensation award; rather, it affects the total length of time an employee can receive the award.

What is an Impairment Rating Evaluation?

For those employees whose injury is rated as a total disability, Impairment Rating Evaluations (IRE) are a tool used by an insurer to change the status of the award. It is a medical examination. Once this employee has been receiving benefits for 104 weeks, Pennsylvania law gives insurers the right to request an IRE. In doing so, their hope is that the examination will show that the impairment has decreased to below 35%, so that they may cap the amount of time they will be required to pay benefits.

Conceivably, if an employee’s injury is total and permanent, they can receive benefits for life. But if the insurance company is successful in getting the impairment rating reduced, they only have to pay benefits for a maximum of 500 more weeks. If you receive notice for an IRE, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a professional who is experienced in workers’ compensation law. They can help you through the IRE process and, if necessary, appeal the result.