This edition was issued on 7 July 2021
Welcome to the latest edition of Personal Injury Commission News.
The Commission has moved into its fifth month of operation and is continuing to effectively deliver our services for the injured people of NSW.
This edition provides updated information about the Commission’s response to the current pandemic conditions in New South Wales, based upon the latest Public Health Order. It also includes a timely reminder about parties participating in telephone or video conferences, an update on recruitment for new members, a recent decision of note and details of a speech I delivered to the Independent Review Office Annual Seminar.
I will provide further updates on pandemic operations as the situation evolves.
Judge Gerard Phillips
Impact on Operations Related to COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders
Our community is currently in the middle of its second general COVID-19 lockdown, which is now scheduled to end late on 16 July 2021.
Changes to the Commission’s operations have been extended in response to the current Public Health Order and will now remain in place until Friday 16 July 2021. The current arrangements for medical assessments, hearings and the Commission’s offices are available to view on the Commission’s website.
The lockdown obviously has impacts on the Commission’s ability to proceed with in-person medical assessments, however we are making every effort to minimise disruption.
This current lockdown will inevitably cause delays with regards to medical assessments. This is a fact of the lockdown and the restrictions currently in place. Additionally, Commission users would be aware that we inherited a backlog of motor accidents medical assessments from the 2020 pandemic lockdowns which we are continuing to work through. The current lockdown simply adds to that challenge.
We are actively managing this situation. To this end, assessments during the current lockdown will be moved to videoconference if agreed by all parties and the Medical Assessor determines that examination via videoconference is appropriate. Other assessments are being rescheduled and we are currently considering a number of possible ways to deal with these cases. The Commission’s Protocols for Medical Assessments provide expectations for videoconference assessments.
Since the lockdown commenced on Monday 28 June 2021, the Commission has been able to proceed with 13 assessments in-person where the claimants were located outside Greater Sydney, has converted 62 proceedings to be conducted via telephone or videoconference and has rescheduled 78 assessments to the next available time and in priority order. The team will continue engaging with parties directly regarding medical assessments scheduled for the week commencing 12 July 2021.
Minimising the impacts on injured people is a shared responsibility at this difficult time. I ask that all parties to disputes respond to Commission staff in a timely way regarding these assessments and be flexible and cooperative as we work with you to achieve the best scheduling outcome in each case. With patience and goodwill on behalf of everyone, the Commission will keep hearing cases and dispensing justice.
The Commission will continue considering all and additional options and responses in order to manage the challenges posed by COVID-19 as efficiently as we can. We will monitor the situation going forward and will advise as and when the settings change.
Reminder to Parties Participating in Assessment Conferences and Hearings via Teleconferences and Videoconferences
I would like to remind parties to disputes that there are protocols that must be observed when participating in proceedings held via telephone or video.
I stress the importance of thorough preparation including:
- Early notification to the Commission of the names and contact numbers of attendees for their party;
- Insurers’ actual attendance at the event;
- Properly instructing counsel;
- Consulting with clients and holding client conferences well in advance of the listing event; and
- Parties discussing the case with each other prior to the event to narrow issues and give the best opportunity to resolve the dispute. Refer to cl 16 of Procedural Direction PIC1 – Conduct of parties during proceedings.
Adhering to these protocols, particularly during this time when we are relying more heavily on audio-visual platforms to hear matters, will greatly assist in ensuring outcomes are reached.
The Commission is Recruiting for new Members
The Personal Injury Commission is seeking applications from suitably qualified legal practitioners for appointment as Members of the Workers Compensation Division.
The appointments are for:
- Senior Member for full-time work
- General Members for full-time and sessional work
The position advertisements, including Information Packs, are available on iWork for NSW. Applications for these positions close 09:59am on 2 August 2021.
Recent Decision of Note
Please note the following recent decision by the Supreme Court of NSW regarding whether a deemed withdrawal prevented the further pursuit of a claim: Wahhab v Insurance Australia Ltd  NSWSC 521.
Speech to the Independent Review Office (IRO) Annual Seminar
I had the opportunity to present at the Independent Review Office’s Annual Seminar on Thursday 17 June 2021. I provided an update on the Commission’s operations since launch, outlined current areas of focus and discussed forward plans for the rest of 2021. You can read the speech on the Commission’s website here or view a video recording of the session on the IRO website here.
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