Read the full medical report – the importance of avoiding a ‘pick and choose’ approach

Bowskill J reiterates that medical reports should be read as a whole and that it is “artificial and inappropriate” to choose the most favorable parts of a report.

In question

The applicant had previously requested an assessment under section 179 of the Workers Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (WCRA) to determine if he had suffered a degree of permanent impairment (DPI) as a result of an accepted injury. A report by an occupational physician, Dr Cunneen, determined a PGD of 90%, but attributed 100% of the impairment to a pre-existing injury, rather than the injury at work.

In this application, the plaintiff sought orders requiring WorkCover to issue a notice of assessment indicating a 90% degree of impairment, or alternatively, a notice directing WorkCover to issue a notice of assessment under section 185 of the WCRA.

The background

The plaintiff suffered a stroke on the job and filed for workers’ compensation on the grounds that work-related stress was a significant contributing factor. WorkCover initially denied the request, but it was eventually accepted by the workers’ compensation regulator.

WorkCover conducted further investigations and obtained medical evidence that the stroke was caused by a pre-existing condition, not job stress. WorkCover purported to decide under section 168 of the WCRA to terminate the worker’s right to workers’ compensation. The applicant successfully sought judicial review of that decision, which was quashed.

The claimant then requested an assessment of permanent impairment and WorkCover requested Dr. Cunneen’s report, in which the physician was of the opinion that the entire impairment of 90% of the claimant’s person was attributable to chronic uncontrolled hypertension. processed and documented, and 0% work stress. WorkCover issued a tax assessment reflecting a 0% DPI and informed the plaintiff that he was not entitled to lump sum compensation. She also advised him that she would stop paying benefits.

The applicant applied for an order reviewing these decisions, but WorkCover reversed both decisions and offered to obtain a new assessment (by a new doctor) after which it would issue a new notice of assessment.

The plaintiff did not want further assessment and sought to compel WorkCover to issue an assessment notice reflecting the 90% of DPI assessed by Dr. Cunneen, essentially “selecting” the report insofar as the impairment relates to a stroke (which had already been recognized as a work-related injury), and setting aside Dr. Cunneen’s opinion as to the cause of this condition. The plaintiff applied for this order under section 30 of the Judicial Review Act 1991.

decision

The Court determined that s30 of the Judicial Review Act dealt with the powers of the Court with respect to applications for review and, as there was no review decision in this case (both WorkCover decisions having been repealed), these powers were not enhanced . In any event, His Honor was not satisfied that any of the orders requested by the applicant should be granted, and the application was dismissed.

Consequences for you

The case reiterates that medical reports should be read as a whole for context, and it is not appropriate to focus on sections that promote an argument while disregarding the balance of the report, or there where this could introduce inconsistency.

Yang v Workcover Queensland [2022] CSQ 56

This article was written by Simi Singh.