This edition was issued on 4 November 2022
Welcome to the latest edition of the Personal Injury Commission News.
This edition calls out the highlights from our 2021-2022 Annual Review, continues our focus on in-person medical assessments, provides updates on Procedural Directions, and includes a progress report on our upcoming Single Digital Platform.
Over the past week, the Commission undertook a number of in-person briefings with stakeholders. Included in this edition is some of the data presented to stakeholders detailing the current state of medical assessments across both Divisions.
I will be in touch with another edition of Personal Injury Commission News soon.
Judge Gerard Phillips
The Commission’s 2021-2022 Annual Review
On Thursday 20 October 2022, the Personal Injury Commission’s 2021/2022 Annual Review (covering the period 1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022) was tabled in Parliament. The Review has now been posted on the Commission’s website and can be found here.
Pages 12-13 provide a good overview of all of the work that we completed during the reporting year.
A review of this section will show that the Commission:
- Finalised 13,667 dispute applications;
- Held 4,961 medical assessments;
- Issued over 1,000 decisions of all types;
- Saw our mediators resolve 70% of all damages cases which proceeded to mediation;
- Resolved 91% of all disputes in the Workers Compensation Division without formal determination;
- Resolved 72% of all disputes in the Motor Accidents Division without formal determination;
- Fielded over 16,500 calls to our enquiry line and 14,000 emails to our helpdesk;
- Kept users fully informed of all relevant issues through our regular publications and reference group meetings.
These achievements, in the face of the significant challenges we experienced as a result of the pandemic, are a reflection of the commitment and hard work of our staff, Members, Medical Assessors, Mediators and Merit Reviewers. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their incredible efforts.
Finally, I refer you to chapter four which details the Commission’s Strategic Plan, which was developed in early 2022. The way we go about our daily work will be informed by the furtherance of that plan.
In-Person Medical Assessments – Current Status Report
Readers of Personal Injury Commission News will note that one of the big challenges we have described at length during 2022 has been the backlog of in-person medical examinations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the end of July 2022, however, it is becoming apparent that for the first time since the Commission came into its existence (1 March 2021) our operations are experiencing “clear air”. By this I mean that our operations are no longer constantly beset by issues associated with the pandemic or other matters such as floods, the bad flu season or train strikes. Since July, the experience of either COVID infections or people having to isolate amongst the claimant group, the Commission’s staff, Members and Medical Assessors has been declining.
As a result, while our performance reporting in the Annual Review demonstrated significant achievements in this area despite the challenges faced, I am pleased to say that there has been further advancement since the financial year ended.
I outline some key recent performance data below that highlights these improvements but also outlines action required from claimants and their legal representatives in regard to medical assessment attendance. Please note that the data quoted, in particular the numbers related to the backlog, matters on hand and matters in and out, obviously changes on a monthly basis dependent upon assessments scheduled, assessments that actually go ahead and new filings. This means that some of the data has a short shelf life depending on what is actually happening in terms of filings and finalisations.
Volume of Medical Assessments Scheduled Has Increased
Since the beginning of August, the Commission is, on average, scheduling in excess of 700 medical assessments each month in motor accidents and more than 200 in workers compensation matters.
*Data was extracted on 1 November 2022 for October EOM and is subject to change.
The increased volume of scheduled appointments is helping us reach dispute outcomes for claimants and workers more rapidly and enabling us to make pleasing inroads in terms of reducing our medical assessments backlog. While the number of medical assessments scheduled during December and January will be lower due to the holiday period, there will be a focus on returning to a high volume of assessments from February 2023.
Please note that our high-use specialties (psychiatry, rehabilitation and orthopaedics) remain under pressure and there are delays in appointments in these fields.
Medical Assessment Backlog is Reducing Month-on-Month
Since the commencement of 2022, the motor accidents backlog has reduced from 4,667 medical disputes to 1,950. The backlog is defined as all medical disputes lodged prior to 1 January 2022.
*Data was extracted on 1 November 2022 for October EOM and is subject to change.
As is evident from the data, the Commission has made great strides in dealing with the backlog month-on-month during this year, but more work remains to be done to dispense with it as soon as we can.
Motor Accidents Division Clearance Rates Are High
Pleasingly, the clearance rates of motor accidents matters have increased across the year. Our clearance rate based on the calendar year is currently sitting at 117% and 130% for the financial year to date. Clearance rates over 100% mean that more matters are being completed than are being lodged. In short, the good news is that the backlog is heading down, and we are finalising more matters than are being filed.
The Commission currently has 791 medical assessments scheduled in the Motor Accidents Division alone for November. This is a huge logistical undertaking by the Commission and its Medical Assessors.
Reduction of the backlog will only be achieved more quickly if we can increase the incidence of claimants attending their scheduled examinations. As is demonstrated in the graph below, there are still too many appointments which do not go ahead because the assessment has been cancelled, rescheduled or simply recorded as “unattended”. In previous editions of Personal Injury Commission News, I have stressed the imperative for claimants to attend their scheduled medical assessment. In August the completion rate was 62%, which unfortunately dropped to 54% in September and 56% in October notwithstanding the scheduling of large numbers of appointments.
Claimants and their lawyers should consider the appointment of a medical assessment to be analogous to a Commission hearing. Attendance should not be considered a discretionary activity, especially in a high-use specialty. An individual claimants' preference for a different date will generally not be an acceptable reason to reschedule. I understand that emergencies sometimes arise. However it is essential that claimants attend the assessments booked for them in the majority of cases so that outcomes for their disputes can be achieved as quickly as possible. This will also assist the Commission with working through the medical assessments backlog more rapidly.
It is the collective duty of claimants and their lawyers, the insurers and the Commission to work to ensure that as many scheduled appointments as possible proceed. I would urge all claimants’ lawyers to impress upon their clients the need to attend the appointment as and when scheduled. I want to see November’s attendance rate significantly above where it currently sits. As a large number of appointments have been scheduled for November, a high attendance rate will significantly decrease the backlog of cases.
In closing, in the run-up to Christmas, it is of great importance that scheduled examinations are attended. We are continuing to reduce the backlog and at the same time deal with matters filed in 2022.
I’d like to conclude by restating that the good news is we are now able to operate under normal conditions and I feel strongly that by working together we should start to see the improvements we desire, which will benefit all Commission users.
Amendment to Procedural Direction PIC6 – Medical Assessments
- Remove an unsigned certificate as an example of an incomplete certificate – this was previously included in para 69.
Certificates have not been signed for some time and are regarded as complete when sealed instead of signed.
- Remove examples of evidence from paragraph 15 as practitioners said it was leading to confusion.
Clarification of Procedural Direction PIC7 – Appeals, reviews, reconsiderations and correction of obvious errors in medical disputes
Some practitioners have mentioned that the following clause in Procedural Direction PIC7 has been misinterpreted to mean a hard copy bundle –
 A party must lodge and serve a paginated and indexed bundle of documents that should be considered by the President and/or the Review Panel and submissions concerning the appropriate medical assessment.
The Commission confirms that any reference to a document (singular or plural) means an electronic bundle unless otherwise stated.
Update on the Commission’s Single Digital Platform
Development of the Commission’s new single digital platform is progressing well and we are on track to make the system operational around April or May next year in the Motor Accidents Division, and two to three months later in the Workers Compensation Division.
The establishment of a single IT platform for the Commission’s case management will enable all Commission users to engage with it in the same place, in the same way in the future. This will be a welcome and exciting development in how parties to disputes interact with us.
To help differentiate our new platform from the existing Motor Accidents and Workers Compensation systems when it is launched, we have named it ‘Pathway’. Commission users, including insurers, legal representatives and claimants/workers will engage with the new platform via a single online interface called the ‘Pathway Portal’. Decision Makers will access the platform via an interface to be known as ‘myPathway’.
As we are committed to ensuring that the platform meets the needs of all Commission users, decision makers and staff, we will demonstrate aspects of the platform for representatives of each cohort in a series of feedback ‘showcases’ across the coming months.
The showcases will be an opportunity for platform users to see what has been built to date, ask questions about it and provide meaningful feedback about how what has been built could be fine-tuned to best meet their needs.
Showcases of the platform’s Motor Accidents functionality will be held for Commission decision makers, the CTP insurers and the legal profession from mid-November. Invitations will be issued shortly. Showcases of the Workers Compensation functionality will be held early in 2023.
I am very pleased with how the development of the Pathway platform is proceeding. I look forward to introducing the platform during 2023 and the improvements it will bring to your digital interactions with the Commission. I will update you on progress over the coming months.
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