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Lawyer calls for abolition of medical tribunals

Lawyer calls for abolition of medical tribunals

A personal injury law firm has spoken out against medical tribunals, saying they must be abolished to protect injured workers.

Tindall Gask Bentley partner Tim White said the current WorkCover system robs injured workers of their legal rights

Employees have limited access to legal representation and are unable to appeal decisions handed down by medical tribunals, he said.

“These tribunals must be abolished," he said. “A person’s claim to having a work injury can be rejected right from the start, and their avenue to challenge that through a court is shut down.

“An individual facing criminal charges can potentially have the government pay for their lawyer, but an injured worker often won’t get the opportunity to have their matter heard in court, which is very prejudicial.”

South Australia’s largest personal injury firm, Tindall Gask Bentley, has dealt with many frustrated workers, who have struggled to cope since WorkCover was amended with restrictive legislation in 2008.

“A person can go from earning $1000 per week on WorkCover to zero,” White said. “That has a significant impact on the individual and their family, given that they are reliant on that money to cover essential costs."

The firm argues that these people often can’t go back to work because of their injury,and are forced to turn to CentreLink for help.

The medical tribunals are made up of doctors, who are given the power to make decisions which in many cases would otherwise be made by the courts, White said.

“How are they qualified to do that? … That’s why you have a Judge, with years of legal experience, to determine these issues.”

WorkCover is under review, but White said changes could be forced sooner depending on the outcome of a pending Supreme Court decision.

“We are waiting on results from the Yaghoubi and Campbell case, where it has been argued that the medical panels are unconstitutional and must be dissolved.

“But until then, the future is extremely uncertain for injured workers.”

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