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QLD Workers’ Compensation: What is the Medical Assessment Tribunal?  

The Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) provides for an independent and non-adversarial system of medical review and assessment of injury and impairment of workers already within, or seeking acceptance in to, Queensland’s statutory workers’ compensation scheme. The practical mechanism for meeting this statutory objective is by way of medical assessment tribunals, that make independent expert medical decisions.  

The tribunal hearing

The tribunal is comprised of either three or five doctors, whom have appropriate training and experience to assess the injury/ies that the worker has sustained. For example, the tribunal members may be psychiatrists, in instances of a psychiatric condition, or orthopaedic surgeons, in instances of orthopaedic injuries. Their assessment and subsequent decision is informed both by an interview at the tribunal hearing, as well as any documents or information provided to them by the worker or the insurer. In the event that the worker wants to provide documents to the tribunal, these must be provided ten business days before the hearing. The documents must also be forwarded to the insurer.  

 

The tribunal hearing can take up to one hour, during which time the tribunal doctors will ask the worker a number of questions about their injuries and consequent restrictions. If the worker has a physical injury, then a physical examination may also occur.  

 

The worker’s employer or insurer is not able to attend the tribunal hearing, nor is any information shared with them. A legal representative can attend with the worker in order to assist in the process. 

Matters that can be considered

The tribunal exists independent to the relevant insurer, being administered by the Workers’ Compensation Regulatory Services (WCRS). Referral to the tribunal can only be made by the insurer. Section 500 of the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (Qld) details the matters that can be considered by the tribunal, including but not limited to: –  

      –      Whether an injury was caused by a workers’ employment, where there is conflicting medical opinion on the subject; 

      –      Whether a worker has an ongoing incapacity for work as a result of their work injury; 

      –      If the worker has a physical injury and they disagree with the assessment of permanent impairment; 

      –      If the worker has a psychiatric injury and they seek an assessment of the permanent impairment arising from that injury. Only a tribunal is permitted to decide a degree of permanent impairment for a psychological injury; 

      –      Undertaking an assessment of worker’s level of dependency, if the worker disagrees with the initial assessment of same. 

Tribunal decisions

The worker should be provided a copy of the tribunal decision within ten days of the hearing, sent by email or post. The decision will include both the information and documents that were considered by the tribunal doctors in coming to their decision, as well as their reasons for making that decision.  

There are few options for workers that wish to dispute the decision of the medical assessment tribunal. A worker may ask the insurer to consider new medical evidence, provided it has been less than twelve months since the hearing. Alternatively, workers may wish to make an application for judicial review to the Supreme Court. In order to succeed in such an application, the worker would need to demonstrate that there has either been a breach of procedural fairness, or an error of law made.  

If you need assistance with the medical assessment tribunal process, please do not hesitate to contact Littles Lawyers.  

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