Published: 27 November 2018
Author: Peter Claven and Jessica Steele
What to expect with your WorkCover Magistrates' Court matter
During the course of your Workcover matter, the Insurer may make a decision that is not to your liking. For example, they may stop paying for a certain medication or terminate your entitlement to medical and like expenses altogether. Or, they may terminate your entitlement to weekly payments.
If this happens, you have the right to appeal the decision to conciliation. This is a free process whereby you, your representative, a representative of the insurance company and a representative from the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service sit around a table and try to negotiate a resolution.
Options for resolving a dispute
If the matter cannot be resolved, then depending upon what the dispute relates to, you generally have two options should you wish to appeal the matter further. The first is the medical panel: this is a free process whereby you attend an assessment with independent doctors (generally between two and three). These doctors review the decision and then provide an opinion. Their opinion is, generally speaking, final and binding.
The second option is to elect to refer the matter to the Magistrates' Court of Victoria. This blog will outline what you can expect if you have a Magistrates' Court WorkCover matter.
The first thing you need to realise is that from the time of issuing Magistrates’ Court proceedings (which will usually be shortly after you’ve been to conciliation) it may take at least six months or more before your matter is dealt with at court. Unfortunately, this wait is unavoidable and is the result of there being many similar cases that also need to be addressed.
Magistrates' Court processes
The usual course of events is that your matter will first be listed for a ‘mention.’ This is largely an administrative appearance and one that (unless you’ve been specifically told otherwise by your lawyer) does not require your appearance. At the mention, the parties will have the opportunity to discuss your matter between themselves. On occasion, matters do resolve by way of agreement between the parties at this stage.
However, if the matter does not resolve at the mention stage, then it will usually be listed for hearing.
It’s important to note that even if your matter is listed for a hearing, the odds are that it will resolve before being heard before the Magistrate - either by way of negotiation between the parties or, by your matter being referred to the Medical Panel. A good majority of matters resolve, one way or the other, before reaching the hearing stage.
If your matter is one of the minority and it runs to hearing, then here’s a few things you should be aware of:
- Your matter will be heard before a Magistrate alone, not a Judge or jury.
- Depending on the nature and complexity of the matter, your matter could run for anywhere between a few hours to a few weeks at the extreme.
- You are likely to be required to give evidence. This involves being asked questions by your barrister and the Defendant’s barrister.
- Either party may call witnesses – this involves lay witnesses (for example, people who may have witnessed an accident) or medical witnesses (for example, your treating GP or specialist).
- The Magistrate will hand down their judgement any time after the case finishes. This could be immediately after it has finished, or months down the track.
- At any time during the running of your matter, your case could resolve by way of negotiation between the parties.
If you have a Magistrates’ Court matter coming up and you’re not sure about what to expect, make sure you get in touch with your lawyer and ask the appropriate questions.