Permanent impairment resulting from primary physical injury and primary psychological injury cannot be combined for the purposes of s 39(2)

The worker sustained a primary physical injury and primary psychological injury arising out of a frank incident on 3 September 2007.  In 2014 a Medical Appeal Panel assessed the degree of permanent impairment resulting from her psychological injury to be 19% WPI.

In July 2017 the insurer advised the worker that her weekly compensation would cease at the end of 2017 by reason of the operation of s 39 of the 1987 Act (cessation of weekly payments after 5 years).

In December 2017 the worker filed an Application for Assessment by an Approved Medical Specialist (‘Application’), for assessment as to whether her degree of permanent was more than 20% WPI.  If the worker obtained an assessment of more than 20% WPI, she would avoid the 5 year limitation on weekly payments (s 39(2) of the 1987 Act). 

The referral in the Application requested the ‘…AMS to combine any physical impairment with the psychological impairment found by the Medical Appeal Panel…’.   The Application included an IME report assessing the worker with 13% WPI resulting from the primary physical injury on 3 September 2007.

The employer disputed the referral on the basis that impairments arising from primary psychological  injuries are to be assessed separately from primary physical injuries and the ‘…results of the two assessments cannot be combined…’ , as provided by the SIRA Guidelines for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

The issue in dispute proceeded to determination by the Commission.  On 8 February 2018 Arbitrator Tim Wardell determined it was not permissible to combine impairments resulting from primary psychological injury and primary physical injury for the purposes of the s 39 threshold and dismissed the Application.[1]   

Author: Michael Tan

Further contact: Mick Franco

[1] Matter No 6626/17 (8 February 2018)