In the world of workplace injuries in New South Wales, impairment percentage is everything. A 1% increase in impairment can result in a very substantial increase in the benefits that an injured worker is able to access.
In summary, the respective impairment threshold and their implications are as follows:
- 0% to 10% (or is it 1% to 10%?) medical expenses are limited to payment within a period of two years after the date of claim or the date in which weekly compensation ceases;
- Greater than 10% – entitlement to receive lump sum compensation for permanent impairment (Section 66(1));
- More than 10% but not more than 20% – entitled to medical expenses for five years from the date of claim or the date of weekly compensation ceased;
- At least 15% – possible entitlement to the payment of work injury damages (Section 151(1) of the WCA) and one precondition to commutation satisfied (Section 87EA(1)(a) of the WCA);
- More than 20% – worker with high needs (Section 32A of the WCA) entitled to weekly compensation after five years (Section 39(2) of the WCA), and period of entitlement to medical and treatment expenses not restricted (Section 59A(5));
- More than 30% – worker with highest needs (Section 32A and special entitlements to weekly compensation).
It can be seen that the most important focus for an injured worker is not be restored to health or to achieve a durable and a safe return to work but rather to ensure that the level of WPI assessed is maximised by whatever means possible.
This process is made further complicated by Section 66(1) that limits an injured worker to one claim for assessment of whole person impairment only.