In our experience with claimants over motor accidents compensation claims, many claimants suffer from physical and/or psychological injuries, which are medically examined by expert doctors in particular fields such as orthopedics, psychiatry and neurology. These experts would provide an opinion on a claimant’s ‘whole person impairment’. Our clients would often inquire us of the meaning of this medical concept.
By a way of background, an individual who is injured and suffering from continuing disabilities is prescribed with a whole person impairment percentage in these medical assessments. These assessments assist in determining a claimant’s entitlement to general damages/ or also known as damages for non-economic loss, i.e compensation that cannot be quantified such as for the pain, loss and suffering inflicted by the injuries.
Under section 131 of the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 (NSW);
No damages may be awarded for non-economic loss unless the degree of permanent impairment of the injured person as a result of the injury caused by the motor accident is greater than 10%.
Furthermore, section 134 prescribes that the maximum amount that a Court may award for non-economic loss is $477,000.00 pursuant to the Motor Accidents Compensation (Determination of Loss) Amendment Order 2013. Thus, it is essential for claimants to have a general understanding of the concept of whole person impairment, as this concept generally underpins a claimant’s entitlement to an award for damages pertaining to non- economic loss.
Under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (Cth), ‘impairment’ is defined as the loss, loss of use, or the damage or malfunction of any part of the body or of any bodily system or function, or part of such system or function. The degree of a claimant’s impairment is expressed as a percentage based for the impairment of any body part, system or function to the extent to which it permanently impairs the claimant as a whole person.
In our experience with motor accident compensation claims, virtually all but a minority of claims involve disputed medical determinations about a claimant’s whole person impairment percentage, from medical experts instructed by the claimant and the insurer. This is rightly so, given how instrumental a whole person impairment percentage is to the award for damages pertaining to non- economic loss. At Gerard Malouf and Partners, we instruct one of the most experienced and reputable medical experts to assess our clients, so that no medical injury or condition is left unturned for the determination of our client’s degree of permanent impairment.