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What you need to know about permanent impairment assessments

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Please note that this post was written for Queensland audiences and the information within may not apply to other regions.

When reaching the end of your statutory WorkCover benefits, WorkCover will usually have you assessed for the degree of permanent impairment. However, they are not always required to, so it’s important that you always request one.

But what exactly is a permanent impairment? How is a permanent impairment assessed? What should you look out for? And how much workers’ compensation will your permanent impairment rating get you? Read on to find out.

What is a permanent impairment and how is it assessed?

A permanent impairment is the label given to the permanent impact an injury or illness has on you and your ability to carry out daily activities, including work. During your workers’ compensation claim in Queensland, you’ll be assessed for the degree of the permanent impairment (DPI) in what is referred to as a permanent impairment assessment.

It’s conducted by an independent doctor once your injury or illness has become “stable and stationary” – that is when it has stayed the same over a period of time and isn’t likely to improve with further treatment.

The assessment gives you a rating in percentages on a scale up to 100 per cent (indicating a fully functional body). And, as touched on above, basically tells you how impaired your injury or illness makes you.

Essentially, the more serious the injury, the higher your permanent impairment rating will work out to be.

What is the purpose of a permanent impairment assessment?

As mentioned, the purpose of a permanent impairment assessment is to work out how much your injury or illness has actually impacted you. This is then used to work out how much money WorkCover will offer you to end your claim.

Generally, once all injuries have been assessed, you’ll receive a Notice of Assessment (NOA) from WorkCover Queensland stating your DPI and a monetary offer that is intended to cover all your injuries from that date onwards.

We recommend seeking legal advice before undergoing any WorkCover impairment assessment or accepting any WorkCover lump sum offer, to make sure that your case is strong and you’re getting what is fair.

How is a permanent impairment rating actually calculated?

When it comes to working out the actual percentage of your permanent impairment, in Queensland it is calculated using the Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (GEPI).

For psychological injuries or illnesses, the assessment can only be conducted by the General Medical Assessment Tribunal (GMAT) and cannot be appealed.

Generally, you’ll receive a minimum of two permanent impairment assessments – one from your treating GP and one from WorkCover’s doctor. Although for more serious cases it is recommended for you to get a third opinion.

What if I don’t agree with the degree of permanent impairment?

It is important to note that you also have the right to dispute the outcome if you disagree with the permanent impairment rating you’ve been given.

But you only have 20 business days to let WorkCover know you want to do this. WorkCover Queensland will then decide whether they will grant you a reassessment of your injury within ten days.

If you are reviewed by a medical assessment tribunal, that decision is final, and you are unable to reappeal it. However, if you are reassessed by another doctor and you still disagree with their decision, you can escalate it to the medical tribunal – which will be final.

Note: While WorkCover will usually have you assessed for the degree of permanent impairment at the end of your statutory benefits, you can also ask to be assessed. In fact, it is recommended to always ensure you are getting one.

How much compensation will my permanent impairment rating get me?

The amount of compensation that you’ll receive from WorkCover is dependent on your individual circumstances.

While the degree of permanent impairment plays a role, so does how long you’ve been off work, how long you’re expected to still be off work, and more. The range of impairment and associated payment amounts are set out in the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Regulation 2014.

Consulting a legal expert will be able to give you a better idea of your entitlements and how much your compensation claim is worth from the outset of your claim.

Note: It is crucial to note that you do not need to accept WorkCover’s lump-sum offer if you believe they are shortchanging you.

As a general principle, if your impairment is rated less than 20 per cent, you do have to choose whether to accept the lump sum offer or reject it and start a claim for common law damages (if you believe your employer was at fault for your injury). You can do both if your impairment is rated at 20 per cent or more.

But if you are unsure whether to accept their offer or pursue it further, you also have the option of deferring your offer which gives you time to decide. This is when you would usually engage a lawyer, if you haven’t already, to make sure your WorkCover claim is as airtight and strong as possible.

Read more things you should know about WorkCover claims here.