Recently we wrote an article giving you the information you need to know about lump sum offers of compensation from WorkCover Queensland. Since the changes to the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 on 30 October 2014 we have observed some practices by WorkCover Queensland that could limit the amount of compensation you receive. As discussed in our previous article at this stage you have probably received an offer of lump sum compensation from WorkCover or a self insurer. This offer has been based on an assessment of permanent impairment by a Doctor.
A permanent impairment is impairment from an injury resulting in:
- loss of efficient use of part of the body, or
- loss of part of the body.
For example, you may be assessed as having a back injury with a 4% impairment. The impairment is permanent if your injury is stable and stationary and not likely to improve with further treatment. The percentage of permanent impairment is used to calculate your offer of lump sum compensation.
We have observed that WorkCover Queensland will send injured persons to an Occupational Physician who is generally underqualified to assess significant injuries such as spinal injuries. The theory being that you are given a low percentage of permanent impairment which equates to less compensation. For example, currently for every 1% of impairment you are assessed as having, you receive $3,073.85.
If you disagree with the assessment of permanent impairment you can request a review of the assessment by a second medical specialist or the Medical Assessment Tribunal (unless the Tribunal made the original decision). You only have 20 business days after receiving the Notice of Assessment of permanent impairment to request a review of the decision by the Medical Assessment Tribunal or you are taken to have agreed with the PERCENTAGE of permanent impairment.
At McNamara & Associates, our clients have had success when we have advised clients to reject the offer of lump sum compensation and elect for an assessment by a second medical specialist. This has allowed us to assist our client in selecting a Specialist who is more appropriate to assess their particular injury.
Typically we have found the assessment by the second Specialist will result in a much higher impairment percentage being assessed, which in turn equates to a higher lump sum offer. Even if the impairment is increased by 1%, that means an additional $3,073.85 in your pocket.
If you elect for an assessment by a second medical specialist you still have the option of rejecting the second opinion and asking the Medical Assessment Tribunal to review the injury.
If the Medical Assessment Tribunal has made the decision, you may defer the offer and seek fresh medical evidence to challenge the percentage of impairment if you believe it should be higher.
The lump sum compensation is the initial offer made by WorkCover and is often not a large amount or adequate compensation.
You should seek legal advice before accepting any offers of lump sum compensation as accepting an offer prevents you from making a common law damages claim. You can only accept a lump sum offer OR claim common law damages, not both.
If you do not accept the lump sum offer then the next step will be to lodge a Notice of Claim for Damages with WorkCover and your employer. However if your injury occurred between 15 October 2013 and 31 January 2015 and your impairment has been assessed as 5% or less you are not entitled to pursue a common law claim for damages.