The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide benefits to workers who are hurt on the job. Unfortunately, injured workers in Victoria often face immense obstacles to receiving the compensation they deserve.
We have written before about how the broken WorkCover system in Victoria routinely fails workers. Clients often come to us with stories of mistreatment and neglect at the hands of the authorised agents who act for the VWA within the WorkCover scheme – some report the process of applying for benefits is worse than the workplace injury itself.
At the outset, you may find yourself before the Medical Panel if your WorkCover claim is denied and you have sought to dispute that decision. At that stage, the determination of the Medical Panel is very important, and it would be best to have an experienced legal firm assist you in preparing for your appointment with the Medical Panel.
Our workers’ compensation lawyers have unmatched experience navigating the WorkCover claims process. Please call 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Henry Carus + Associates serve clients throughout Melbourne and all of VIC.
What Do Medical Panels Do?
A WorkCover claim may be referred to a Medical Panel in order to resolve questions about the injuries a worker sustains on the job and the ongoing impact of those injuries. Members of the Medical Panel are specialist doctors who provide impartial review of the medical evidence that is in dispute in your workers’ compensation claim.
The Medical Panel will address questions such as:
- Is the injury related to the worker’s employment?
- What is the nature of the worker’s injury?
- How severe is the worker’s injury?
- How does the injury affect the worker’s ability to perform the job?
- What treatment and other care is required?
Ultimately, Medical Panels provide legally binding decisions in relation to a worker’s claim for benefits, so long as they are decisions reached in a manner that essentially reflects that the rules of natural justice have been followed. Therefore, it is crucially important to be fully prepared for your Medical Panel appointment.
What Should I Expect from the Medical Panel?
1. Scheduling the Appointment
Your Medical Panel appointment will generally be scheduled anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks after referral. How long you have to wait depends on the complexity of your case and the availability of the specialists who need to be involved.
Having to wait for your Medical Panel adds another layer of anxiety to the already stressful process of lodging a WorkCover claim or seeking necessary benefits. You have already had your claim denied or your benefits delayed and underpaid, and now you have to wait again to plead your case? For many people simply going to the doctor is stressful, let alone an appointment with a group of doctors that could decide the benefits you need to recover from your injuries and protect your future.
It is important to use this time for preparation. Before you meet with the Medical Panel, our team will work with you to gather all of the medical evidence in your claim. This may include:
- Medical records
- Medical reports
- Imaging scans and reports, such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and more
- Details of all the medications you have been prescribed, including the type of medication, the dosage, and instructions for usage
We will also review questions that the doctors may ask you during the appointment.
The idea of appearing before a team of medical specialists may be challenging to many. However, we often find that referral to a Medical Panel can also be advantageous because it affords an opportunity for objective review of your claim.
2. During the Medical Panel Appointment
Your session with the Medical Panel will generally take 1 hour to 1.5 hours. The panel may consist of just one doctor, but most medical panels include two to five doctors.
The Medical Panel will ask you questions about how your injury has occurred, any treatment you have received, and the current impact of your injury. The doctors may also ask about your professional background and what your job entails.
During the appointment, one or more of the doctors may ask to examine you. The panel will review scans, medical records, and the other records that have been supplied or that you may bring along.
Sometimes the authorized agent of the VWA has available surveillance video which they believe should be considered for your claim. The doctors may play the video and ask you questions about what they see. Do not be concerned – it is our experience that honest clients are accepted for their injuries and ongoing disabilities, despite what might be shown in a few minutes of video selected by the authorized agent from hours of surveillance.
Unfortunately, our lawyers are not allowed to accompany you to the appointment with the Medical Panel. You may, however, bring a loved one or close friend for emotional support.
3. The Medical Panel’s Determination
After the appointment, you will have to wait once again for the Medical Panel to issue its determination. This generally takes approximately 1 month, although it may take longer depending on the complexity of your claim and if the panel requests additional information from you. You may be asked to attend another doctor appointment for further examination and tests.
The determination of the panel is essentially final; you do not have the option to request review or reconsideration of the decision by the Medical Panel unless the panel has committed a basic failure to follow natural justice. The decision is not only binding on the issue presented at that time, but can also be used later to consider other aspects of your claim.
Can I Appeal the Decision of the Medical Panel?
You can appeal the Medical Panel’s determination, and that appeal has to be lodged within 60 days of the determination with the Supreme Court of Victoria. There are very limited grounds for such an appeal, reflective of the desire to allow the panel to form its own views.
However, if a matter has not been given the benefits of being considered fairly, such as one of the doctors displaying all the attributes of being biased against the worker, then a determination can be set aside. Such was recently achieved by our firm in Jones v Dr David Fish & Ors.
Most of the time, a successful appeal will lead to having the matter resubmitted to a newly constituted Medical Panel.
Contact Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Today
Filing a WorkCover claim is a complicated and often draining process. Many workers become so frustrated that they drop out of the system instead of continuing to fight for the benefits they deserve.
In spite of the challenges, Henry Carus + Associates encourage you not to give up on your claim. We have extensive experience helping injured workers in all aspects of a WorkCover claim, including matters that are submitted to the Medical Panel.
At Henry Carus + Associates, we know that You Deserve More. Our team is proud to provide you with the legal guidance and caring, compassionate support you need to obtain the compensation you deserve for your workplace injury.
Please call 03 9001 1318 today for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our work injury lawyers serve clients in Melbourne and throughout VIC.