Friday, August 15, 2008

Commonwealth Court holds IRE doctor must testify the Claimant has reached maximum medical improvement

In C. Combine v. WCAB (Nat'l Fuel Gas Distribution Corp) the Claimant underwent an IRE, which found a twenty per cent (20%) total body impairment resulting from a right knee injury. The Employer filed a Modification Petition.

The IRE physician admitted the Claimant has persistent swelling, medial laxity and discomfort following a partial knee replacement. The physician admitted a total knee replacement could improve the Claimant’s condition.

Most importantly, the physician testified he did not evaluate the Claimant to determine whether the Claimant reached maximum medical improvement. The doctor explained the nature of the examination would be different, and the doctor’s understanding was a finding of MMI was not necessary to complete an IRE under Pennsylvania law.

The WCJ accepted the premise that MMI did not need to be determined. The statute and regulations do not mention MMI. The WCJ granted the modification petition, and the Board affirmed.

The Commonwealth Court reversed. The Court looked to the AMA Guides, which state impairment ratings are to be performed when an individual is at a state of permanency. The Guides state this term is usually synonomous with MMI. The Court also stated an MMI requirement is consistent with the 104 week prerequisite and the six month waiting period between IREs [sic IMEs - see Section 306(a.2)(6)].

Counsel should anticipate the Court interpreting and valuing the provisions of the Guides.

Chapter 1.8 in the Fifth Edition provides impairment percentages account for basic activities of daily living, not including work, and further individual analysis of work activities is required to determine disability. Sound familiar?

No comments: