How Case Law Shapes Workers’ Compensation

Case law is an important part of the legal system, including Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation system. It is often used to complement and expand upon the written law found within the Workers’ Compensation Act. And as such, it may play a significant role in your claim. For this reason, it is important to know what case law is.

What is Case Law?

workers' compensation terms

Case law refers to when the decisions from previous cases are used to guide or inform the judge’s decision in the current case. In some situations, case law alters or expands upon existing law. For example, case law may be used to define the boundaries of an existing portion of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation act, such as who is considered to be a traveling employee. In other situations, it is used as a precedent for similar cases. If there is an existing case with circumstances similar to yours, the rulings in that case may be applied to yours as well in some capacity.

How is Case Law Used in Workers’ Compensation?

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The first of two ways in which case law is used is to establish what is and is not legal within the bounds of Workers’ Compensation Law. For example, back in 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision in Protz v. WCAB established that impairment rating evaluations (IREs) were unconstitutional. IREs are in a grey area right now as they may be returning. But for at least a few years, this case law affected Workers’ Compensation throughout the Commonwealth. It set a hard rule regarding the legality of IREs that applied across the board.

Guiding decisions through set precedents is the second way in which case law is used. If there is a previous case that had similar circumstances to yours, the rulings and decisions from that case may be used to inform your case. In the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc v. WCAB case, case law precedent was brought up. The organization claimed that their injured player was a seasonal employee, which would have restricted his benefits. They pointed to a previous ruling which established that another injured football player was seasonally employed.

Ultimately, that claim failed due to differences in the employment contracts of both players. But, this case is still an example of how case law can be used to establish precedent within specific situations.

Hillsberg Law

My name is Geoffrey Hillsberg, and I have been solely practicing workers’ compensation law in the State of Pennsylvania since 1995. If you have been injured on the job in Delaware County, please contact my law office today. I will fight for your right to compensation after a workplace injury.


The advice offered above is general in nature and may not be applicable to every case. Consultation with an attorney is highly recommended. Reliance on this advice does not represent the formation of an attorney-client relationship in the absence of a fee agreement with Mr. Hillsberg.