Published: 22 November 2018
Author: Stringer Clark
How injured workers can prepare for a Medical Panel
In our experience, most injured workers have never heard of Medical Panels before they are asked to attend one. A helpful basic rundown on the purpose of Medical Panels and what to expect at an appointment follows.
What is the role of Medical Panels?
The purpose of Medical Panels is to answer medical questions in Workcover claims (and Wrongs Act claims). Medical questions are commonly referred to a Medical Panel from a court or from the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service (ACCS).
The types of medical questions that Medical Panels may be asked to decide include:
- whether a worker’s injuries are related to their employment,
- the impact of a worker’s injuries on their ability to work, and
- whether medical expenses or household help are necessary.
For example, if a request for surgery has been rejected by a WorkCover insurer, a Medical Panel may be asked to decide whether the surgery is appropriate.
A Medical Panel does not decide factual issues as this is the role of the court.
What happens at a Medical Panel?
In order to answer the medical questions, a Medical Panel may ask about your background and injuries and may want to examine you. The Panel will also consider medical reports and scans about your injuries. The Panel may also review surveillance footage or video of your work duties and ask you questions about this.
The Medical Panels website has additional information about what to expect at a Medical Panel and there is also a video you can watch.
Is the Medical Panel independent?
The Medical Panel is independent of the parties involved in the dispute. The Panel is selected by the Convenor of Medical Panels. The Convenor will select specialists for a Panel who have the relevant expertise to answer the medical questions and who have not previously treated or examined the worker.
The Medical Panel’s decision
For WorkCover matters, a Medical Panel usually has 60 days to deliver its opinion. The Panel must give written reasons about its decision and the Panel’s decision is final and binding. The only avenue of appeal is to have the decision reviewed by the Supreme Court if there is a critical error in the Panel’s reasoning. It is important to note that there are strict time limits to appeal a Medical Panel decision.