COVID-19 has obviously been declared by the World Health Organisation as a pandemic and in Australia developments are escalating rapidly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way some aspects of personal injury claims are proceeding, particularly in relation to the assessment of injuries. The legal profession, the Law Society of South Australia, and the various insurers have attempted to work together to minimise interruption to current claims as much as possible.
File work and communication
We are fortunate in this digital age that much of the administrative work involved in the negotiation of claims can be done remotely and online, and this has been occurring for several weeks now. Since the commencement of the quarantine and social distancing restrictions, most lawyers (including us here at Rudall & Rudall), claims managers from the major insurers, and employees of the various courts and tribunals have been able to conduct the majority of our communications and paperwork from home working remotely.
Settlement conferences, the way the overwhelming majority of personal injury matters reach agreement, have continued to be scheduled by some insurers, and whilst face to face conferences have ceased until further notice, they have continued to be held via phone and online video conferencing. For injured workers, hearings and conferences in the SA Employment Tribunal have been heard by phone.
Assessment of injuries
Many medical assessors have continued to consult during the quarantine. Some are continuing to consult in person, while others have been video conferencing over the Internet with patients when appropriate. Some doctors are continuing to provide independent medical assessments and permanent impairment assessments to claimants with prearranged appointments, and some are continuing to book new appointments, where available.
To comply with social distancing and risk minimisation measures it is expected that all medical assessors will abide by strict screening and hygiene practices – although I’m sure doctors don’t need any lecturing from a bunch of lawyers when it comes to hygiene!
Early in the quarantine, Return to Work SA announced that it was suspending all whole person impairment (WPI) assessments for injured workers with current workers’ compensation claims. In response, the Law Society wrote to Return to Work SA advising that several doctors were willing to continue to conduct WPI assessments, and to avoid undue delays to injured workers’ claims, that decision should be reconsidered. Encouragingly, Return to Work SA did reconsider its decision, and this week advised that whole person impairment assessments will recommence from Monday 4 May 2020 for all workers’ compensation claims where appropriate.
With the recent good news that COVID-19 cases in South Australia have decreased, we hope that business will be back to normal in no time at all. In the meantime, we are managing your matter as efficiently as we can!
If you have been injured at work, in a motor vehicle accident, or through the negligence of somebody else and would like to discuss your possible entitlements to compensation, please don’t hesitate to call us on 8523 8400 (Gawler) or 8523 8444 (Tanunda) to speak to one of our personal injury lawyers, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.