The court of appeal handed down a decision in December 2012 concerning Medical Panels that may have wide ranging ramifications for all workcover recipients. In Kocak v Wingfoot Australia Partners Pty. Ltd. & Goodyear Tyres Pty. Ltd.  VSCA 259 the court was required to examine whether a prior Medical Panel decision was binding on a subsequent Court deciding an entitlement under the Accident Compensation Act (The Act).
The Court of Appeal found that it is binding. This means that any Medical Panel decision about a workers entitlements, such as whether they suffer from a particular injury, and whether that injury is work related, is binding on any future Court hearing matters arising under the Act. This includes statutory benefits and Serious Injury Applications. Whilst it may be beneficial to the worker where the Panel decides in their favour, if it is an unfavourable decision it may effectively strike out a worker’s common law entitlements.
Workers were therefore told to exercise great caution before referring a medical dispute from conciliation to a Medial Panel. The benefits of referring a matter to the Panel remain, however the risk should be clearly understood that any potential common law rights may also be affected by an unfavourable decision.
Because of this, the Court of Appeal also decided that in providing their opinion, doctors of the Medical Panel must provide detailed written reasons for their opinions.
High Court Vic limits Medical Panel Opinions to specific circumstances
The High Court of Australia has recently considered whether a decision of a Medical Panel relating to one part of a worker’s claim is binding on all other parts of their claim, including lump sum payments.
In 2012, the Court of Appeal of Victoria found that a Medical Panel Opinion would be binding on any medical question under the Accident Compensation Act. From a worker’s perspective, this raised particular concerns that an adverse Medical Panel finding may bind a worker in a future Serious Injury Application and therefore prevent a worker seeking access to damages for pain and suffering and lost wages.
The decision was appealed to the High Court and judgment was handed down on 30 October 2013.
Great news indeed for Victorian injured workers!
Post dictated by WCV and manually transcribed by T on behalf of WCV]
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