Author Archives: Karl Voigt IV, Esq.

Pennsylvania Announces 2018 Average Weekly Wage

by Karl Voigt
Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Labor and Industry has announced the 2018 Statewide Average Weekly Wage. This figure serves as the basis for determining the maximum and minimum weekly Workers’ Compensation benefit rates in Pennsylvania. The figure has increased to $1025 from the 2017 average of $995. This increase affects the weekly rates paid to workers who were injured on or after January 1, 2018.
Under the Act, injured workers are entitled to indemnity wage-loss benefits equal to two-thirds of their weekly wage for a work-related injury, subject to minimums and maximums. The maximum weekly rate for 2018 is $1025.00. If an employee’s average weekly wage is between $768.75 and $569.44, he or she will get 66 2/3%. The employee will receive 90% if the average weekly wage is $569.43 or less.

Leave a comment

Filed under Workers' Compensation

FDA requests removal of Opana ER for risks related to abuse

by Karl Voigt

Patients who are taking the pain medication Opana are now facing its manufacturer’s withdrawal of the medication from the market.

Earler this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that Opana ER “exposes patients and other users to the risks of opioid addiction, abuse, and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death”. The drug has been available since 2006.

The manufacturer, Endo Pharmaceuticals based in Malvern PA, has been withdrawing the medication from pharmacies since June. Supplies are nearly gone and patients should consult with their physicians for a suitable alternative.

The FDA has made no secret that they intend to review other opioid painkillers.


1 Comment

Filed under Workers' Compensation

House Bill 1840 Seeks to Resurrect Workers’ Compensation IREs

by Karl Voigt

The Pennsylvania legislature has exerted its first effort to resurrect Impairment Rating Evaluations (IREs). These evaluations for years served to limit worker’s compensation wage loss benefits to 604 weeks, potentially leaving disabled workers with no source of income.

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that IREs as enacted are unconstitutional. The result of this ruling is that exams are no longer performed and that benefits are no longer subject to the 604 week limit.

Naturally, litigation has ensued and carriers are pressuring lawmakers to bring the IRE  process back.

The text of the bill can be found here. It is unknown how viable this proposed legislation is, considering the Commonwealth’s budget woes.


Leave a comment

Filed under Workers' Compensation

New Hope to Replace Opioid Painkillers with Safer Alternative

by Karl Voigt

Researcher led by scientists from The University of Texas have revealed the results of their extensive research into a new pain medication that may provide an alternative to addictive opioids.

You may have read on this blog how researchers have focused on the sigma-1 nerve receptor protein in developing opioid pain alternatives. However, new research more than suggests that new medicine can be made from a group of molecules that bind with a sister receptor called sigma-1, little of which until recently  has been known.

Historically, and into the present, opioid medications like oxycodone and OxyContin can combat pain effectively. Unfortunately, to maintain efficacy, doctors have to increase the dosage. Further, these medications are physically addicting and can lead to reliance on non-prescription opioids.

All of us know very well of our country’s opioid crisis. The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has even urged President Trump to declare a federal state of emergency. Every day 142 Americans die of a drug overdose, most from heroin.

This is an entirely new class of medication that will hopefully not be addictive, and perhaps even more effective than opioids.

The downside is, of course, the drug must go through the laborious process of testing and approval. For more, read here.

1 Comment

Filed under Workers' Compensation

House Bill 18 Postponed

by Karl Voigt


If House Bill 18 passes and you’re a workers’ compensation recipient, that’s a word you’re going to have to get used to.

And likely another word:


This new legislation is intended to reduce costs for insurance companies by limiting the types of drugs that doctors can prescribe for you. Which means that a panel of people who have no idea who you are is going to decide what medications you can and can’t take. House Bill 18 would enlist a private company to create a list – or “formulary” – of medications that are “allowed” to treat Pennsylvania injured workers. Non-formulary drugs would need a doctor’s special authorization that they are “medically necessary”.

While opponents of the Bill have procedurally postponed a vote, it may make its way back out of the House Labor & Industry Committee.

In short, it made its way back to committee pending legislators meeting with municipal and state police unions as well as health care providers. If their concerns are addressed, the bill can be amended and sent to the floor for another vote.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association remains opposed to the Bill.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Workers' Compensation

Breaking News: Supreme Court Nixes Workers’ Compensation Impairment Rating Evaluations

by Karl Voigt

At 11:00 AM today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court published its long-awaited opinion regarding the constitutionality of Pennsylvania worker’s compensation Impairment Rating Evaluations (IREs). In the vast majority of cases, these examinations serve to limit worker’s compensation wage loss benefits to 604 weeks, potentially leaving disabled workers with no source of income.

In short, the Commonwealth’s highest court ruled that the entirety of section 306(a.2) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, which created IREs in the first place , contains so many unconstitutional provisions that it must be stricken in its entirety. The Court was entirely silent on whether or not this will effect cases retroactively.

More later. In the meantime, you can download the text of the court’s opinion here.

1 Comment

Filed under Workers' Compensation

Elon Musks’ Leadership in the Field of Workers’ Compensation: Are You Listening PA CEOs?

By Karl Voigt

By now our readers may have heard of the Tesla factory’s reputation for work injuries. Nonprofit Worksafe, a worker safety advocacy group,  made headlines earlier this year when it reported that the injury rate at Tesla’s Fremont, California, plant was 31% higher than the industry average in 2014 and 2015. Worksafe’s report says Tesla had an overall rate of 8.8 injuries per 100 workers in 2015, with 6.7 being the average for the auto industry. The rate of more serious injuries was 7.9, compared to 3.9 for the industry that year.

Tesla has set some very, very aggressive production goals. This has yielded stress and exhaustion for the factory workers. That pressure and stress has in turn led to more injuries. There are even anecdotal reports of workers passing out while working on the production line. In May, newspaper The Guardian reported that ambulances have responded to the Tesla factory more than 100 times since 2014 for various injuries.

Elon Musk

So, what does the chief executive officer of such a company do? Ignore it? Let the workers’ compensation insurance companies sort it out? Harass his employees? Not Elon Musk. Tesla’s founder and leader has vowed that Tesla jobs will be the safest at any automaker in U.S.

First and foremost, he has taken steps to reduce workplace injuries. As an example, there are now three working shifts instead of two. Musk now meets once a week with the factory’s safety team. As a matter of fact, in 2016, Tesla’s injury rate went down significantly.


Musk highlighted his drive to reduce injuries in an email to all Tesla employees. Here’s the text of that communiqué:

“No words can express how much I care about your safety and wellbeing. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.

Tesla Roadster

Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better. I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.

This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from some safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.”

Are you listening, Pennsylvania chief executives?

Leave a comment

by | June 19, 2017 · 7:59 am