Understanding Labor Market Surveys, IREs and IMEs in Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
After you have received workers’ compensation, you may eventually get notices from the insurer about your case. These can inform you of changes to your benefits or make requests. It’s important to examine and respond to these letters promptly. If you need help, you can contact My Comp Lawyers for free case management and free advice about the situation. The most common letters and requests you receive may have to do with IMEs, IREs, Labor Market Surveys and Vocational Evaluations.
Independent Medical Exams (IMEs)
If you’re receiving workers’ compensation, you may be asked to attend an independent medical exam (IME) in Pennsylvania. Don’t let the name fool you. This is an exam paid for and requested by the workers’ compensation insurance company. The information compiled by the doctor (who’s chosen by the insurer) is sent to the insurance company, and you usually don’t get a copy. In some cases, an independent medical exam in PA is requested because there are questions about medical treatment. In other cases, the insurer uses the results to claim you can do more work than your own doctor is recommending is safe. If you have been asked to attend an IME, contact My Comp Lawyers. Our attorneys can prepare you at no cost.
Labor Market Surveys
If you’ve been cleared to return to work by a doctor, you will receive a labor market survey. This is a report compiled by a vocational expert chosen by the workers’ compensation insurance company. The labor market survey in Pennsylvania lists the available jobs in your area that fit your injury’s limitations and your skills. This report is supposed to get you searching for a job again. The insurer can also use the labor market survey to reduce or stop benefits by “proving” that there are good-paying jobs available for a worker.
As part of the labor market survey process, you will be asked to attend a vocational evaluation in Pennsylvania, which is sometimes known as a vocational interview. In a vocational evaluation, a PA vocational expert chosen by the insurance company will ask you questions before compiling a market survey report. Make no mistake — what you say could affect your future benefits.
The labor market survey is highly problematic. For one thing, there’s no guarantee you will get any of these jobs, especially if you are still injured. Secondly, the insurer only considers the injuries their doctor acknowledges. If your doctor feels you’re more injured, you may genuinely be advised not to take a specific position. Thirdly, the “opportunities” compiled this way may not be opportunities in your field or jobs you want to take. A vocational expert may decide that even though you’re injured, you’re a highly-skilled worker. For example, you “can” work all night as a security person or for hours at a call center.
An Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE) in Pennsylvania is a type of medical evaluation that can be requested by the insurance company. The goal of the Impairment Rating Evaluation in PA is usually to decide the total impairment your body has suffered from your injuries. By requesting the IRE the insurance company is starting a clock in your remaining weeks of wage loss benefits. If you are being sent for an IRE, you should call us immediately. We will prepare you for the evaluation and explain what it means to both your short term and long term rights to the future money.
The law states that an Impairment Rating Evaluation needs to follow a few rules:
- It should not occur until you’ve been receiving total disability benefits for 104 weeks.
- Once the insurer asks for an IRE, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation should select a doctor for the evaluation.
- An IRE should not be requested more than two times a year.
- Workers’ compensation benefits cannot be denied if a worker refuses to attend an IRE (unless the IRE was requested by a Workers’ Compensation Judge).
Essentially, if you receive a request for an IRE, you should see this as a key milestone, and you should contact My Comp Lawyers at once. Going to an IRE unprepared means a disability may be classified as a partial disability, and your benefits may be reduced.
Even if your current doctor feels you cannot return to work and your injuries are serious, it doesn’t matter. If an IRE determines you’re only partially disabled, your benefits will be affected. If you’re found to have a partial disability, you can receive no more than 500 weeks of benefits. As soon as that request for an IRE arrives, the clock is ticking on the benefits you may receive.
What You Should Do if You Get a Letter Regarding Your Workers’ Compensation
My Comp Lawyers can assist you if you have received a request for an IRE, IME or labor market survey. If you have received a request for an IRE, we may be able to appeal before a Workers’ Compensation Judge or seek another remedy. Depending on the circumstances, it could be possible to push for a lump sum settlement or to challenge the IRE because the IRE itself or the request for it violated the law.
If you’ve been asked to attend an interview with a vocational expert, we can prepare you for the interview and be there with you during the interview to protect your rights. If the insurer uses a labor market survey to try to cut off or reduce your benefits, we can respond to that litigation and seek to maintain your benefits. Contact My Comp Lawyer today to protect your workers’ compensation benefits and your rights.
Every step of the way, our goal at My Comp Lawyer is to help you get the benefits you deserve under Pennsylvania law. If you’ve been injured in Pennsylvania, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for advice, guidance and other forms of support relating to your case.