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Permanent Impairment Assessments

A permanent impairment assessment is performed when somebody has sustained a trauma, often at work or as a result of work, that leads to issues with the way the body works that do not resolve or improve with medical treatment. Anyone who suffers such an injury may be entitled to a permanent impairment assessment. This is often performed at the end of the treatment journey following a work-related injury, but can be as a result of injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents, or other traumas including surgery.

When an assessment is performed, a medical decision is made by an independent, formally qualified doctor (usually with experience in the field they are assessing), and an impartial, detached decision is made regarding the level of impairment the claimant is suffering. This is usually expressed in the final determination as a percentage of impact on the body as a whole.

By definition, the injury has to be “stable and stationary”. This means that all active treatment should have finished, and the recovery has plateaued, in other words it is “as good as it would get”. As such, when the assessment is performed, there should not really be any “good days” or “bad days” as the injury and impairment have stabilised.

Maximum medical improvement” means that the impairment has become “stable and stationary”. If someone has decided not to undergo further surgery, then at the time of the assessment this might be noted but it does not affect the assessment performed. It also does not affect whether someone goes for surgery after assessment has been done, although obviously any further surgery would not usually be covered by a claim that has already been settled.

Please note that “impairment” and “disability” are two very different things. For someone who has lost the tip of finger, it is a great disability to a violinist, but may not be of great disability to a farmer. These issues can only affect any claim for impairment by around 1%, as of the actual amount of finger lost is the same in both cases, despite the very different impact on the life of the person concerned.

Dr Wainwright is a fully accredited assessor for permanent impairment of the upper limb/arm, lower limb/leg and spinal injuries including the pelvis. Having had experience in looking at the patients with all of these types of injuries, and being the only doctor living in Mackay qualified to review these cases, he is more than happy to provide an impartial opinion when requested.

These assessments are normally performed as part of a legal or WorkCover claim, and do incur a fee that is usually covered by the requesting party.

The job of an assessor, such as Dr Wainwright, is therefore clearly defined as to provide an impartial record of the effect of an injury on the person’s body. There is a legal requirement for this to be able to be repeated, consistent with other any other assessor’s findings, and to stand up in a court of law should there be a need to do so.

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