Published: 04 May 2018
Is a Medical Panel Important to your WorkCover Case?
As you prepare a WorkCover claim you may hear references to a Medical Panel. This blog is a quick reference guide to what a Medical Panel is and when you might encounter one.
What is a Medical Panel?
The Medical Panel is two or more doctors who are selected by the Convener of Medical Panels to make certain decisions in relation to your claim.
The doctors selected will be of the specialties relevant to your injuries.
The doctors selected for a Medical Panel often do not perform significant amounts of medicolegal work for either Plaintiffs (workers) or Defendants (employers). Most of them have significant treating practices rather than medicolegal practices.
When might you go to a Medical Panel?
You can be referred to a Medical Panel from a number of different points in your claim:
- From conciliation - where a medical question is in dispute;
- From the Magistrates’ Court - if you are disputing a decision made by the WorkCover in insurer;
- From the County Court if you are claiming a serious injury certificate.
By far the most common referral will be from the Magistrates’ Court. This may happen where one or the other of the parties thinks the matter is better dealt with by Medical Panel than a Magistrate. The most obvious reason for sending a case to the Medical Panel is where there is a dispute between the doctors as to what the work-related injury actually is.
Referrals from conciliation relate to the same issues as in the Magistrates’ Court but are referred to the Medical Panel at an earlier stage.
Referrals from the County Court relate to when the nature of the injury or the work capacity of the worker is in dispute. Referrals from the County Court to the Medical Panel are not as common as from conciliation or the Magistrates’ Court, but are becoming more frequent.
Wherever the referral comes from, each party through their lawyers is able to make a submission to the Medical Panel regarding the issues in dispute and what they believe the outcome of the referral should be.
If you have previously seen any of the doctors on the Medical Panel, then the Medical Panel needs to be notified so that they may replace them with a doctor that you have not seen before. Neither the referring party or the opposing party has any say regarding which doctors are on the Panel.
Can the Medical Panel opinion be appealed?
A Medical Panel opinion can be appealed in limited circumstances where there were significant errors in relation to the methods used or the law applied to the opinion or if it is not possible to establish how the Panel came to the opinion it did. It is not possible to appeal the opinion simply on the basis that you are unhappy with the outcome or felt that the opinion should have come to a different conclusion.
There are strict time limits in appealing Medical Panel decisions so if you do not have legal representation and your matter is referred to the Medical Panel from conciliation, it makes sense to engage lawyers or at least get advice from a lawyer prior to your attendance at the Panel.