Permanent Impairment Meaning and Assessment

Permanent impairment rating

If you have a long term workers compensation claim with WorkCover claim then you will be assessed for permanent impairment. Before regular WorkCover payments come to an end you will be offered a lump sum payment linked to your permanent impairment rating. 

Assuming your impairment rating is below 20% then accepting this lump sum offer will mean waiving your rights to a so-called ‘common law’ workers compensation claim via a personal injury lawyer.

To ensure that your rights are protected and that you are able to make the most of your permanent impairment claim, get in touch with an expert permanent impairment injury lawyer who is experienced in WorkCover compensation claims before signing any offer.

Most legal firms handling personal injury claims offer a no win no fee guarantee. However, before you engage a “no win no fee” lawyer, it pays to find out whether there is a catch behind their guarantee. Most no win, no fee agreements have a clause that leaves you liable for adverse costs orders (other sides legal costs) issued by the court upon unsuccessful permanent impairment claims which could leave you out of pocket.

All claims with Smith’s Lawyers are truly risk free. You won’t face negative financial consequences as a result of engaging our team of personal injury lawyers.

Get expert advice now: Smith's are Queensland's only 100% risk-free injury compensation lawyers. Insist on our 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch' ® promise. Check your rights with no risk or obligations now and talk direct to our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith. Call 1800 266 801 OR  check if you can claim

What does permanent impairment mean?

A permanent impairment is an injury that does not resolve itself over time, nor does it improve with medical treatment. The term is used to describe the permanent impact an injury has on an individual. 

Permanent impairment could be a result of a workplace injury and can lead to:

Lossing the efficient use of your hand
  • Loss of a specified part of the body, or
  • Loss of efficient use of that specified part of the body.

Courts and insurers refer to a permanent impairment calculator when assessing workers compensation. The permanent impairment calculator works in percentages assuming that a person’s body is 100% functional. A permanent impairment assessment is then carried out to determine the percentage level of loss of function to the body as a result of the injury. 


What is a WorkCover permanent impairment assessment?

When making a Queensland workers compensation claim, you will also undergo a WorkCover permanent impairment assessment. It’s an independent medical assessment carried out by a qualified doctor who will then place a percentage to your permanent impairment injury. The percentage will then be used to calculate your WorkCover permanent impairment lump sum compensation.

It is strongly advised that you seek expert legal help as soon as you are able to, and definitely before the WorkCover permanent impairment assessment. By having the right personal injury lawyers on your side, you will have your rights and interests protected. Our experienced lawyers will ensure that the full scale of your injuries is recognised to place your case in the strongest position possible for maximum entitlement. 

How is a permanent impairment rating calculated?

Calculate permanent impairment

A permanent impairment rating is calculated based on how much the injury impacts the person’s ability to carry out their common daily activities. The more serious the injury, the higher the permanent impairment rating will be.

In most personal injury cases, impairment assessments include the rating plus an uplift of up to 3% for the interference the injury has on daily activities. Chronic pain is also a factor when it comes to uplifting the permanent impairment rating. 

Queensland work injury cases use the Guide to Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (GEPI), which includes a permanent impairment table for specific injuries, including:

  • Upper extremity
  • Lower extremity
  • The spine
  • The nervous system
  • Ear, nose and throat 
  • Urinary and reproductive systems
  • The respiratory system
  • Hearing 
  • The visual system
  • Psychiatric nervous shock and psychological disorders
  • The haematopoietic system
  • The endocrine system
  • The skin
  • The cardiovascular system
  • The digestive system
  • Chronic pain 

The GEPI is based on the American Medical Assessment Guides 5th Edition (AMA Guides) with some minor deviations.

Reaching maximum medical improvement


What is maximum medical improvement? 

Maximum medical improvement is when the physical or psychological condition of the affected person is expected to not likely improve within the next 12 months or more. 

Once a maximum medical improvement is determined by medical expert examination, the percentage of permanent impairment will be assessed according to the equation set by the GEPI and AMA Guides. 

Do I need help before the WorkCover statement or impairment assessment?

If you’ve suffered a work injury that is likely to have long term effects, providing a WorkCover statement can be important, but only if you have an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side. Without having a lawyer present could put your case at risk of not accounting for important facts that could ensure a successful compensation claim.

Choosing and phrasing words to use in your WorkCover statement can have a big impact on your right to compensation. What may appear harmless could be damaging to your case, such as slight admissions of guilt, which will be used against you as an allegation of contributory negligence. 


Do I get more compensation if my permanent impairment rating is higher?

Estimating permanent impairment compensation

In most cases, having a higher permanent impairment rating will mean a higher likelihood to more compensation.

There have, however, been cases where low permanent impairment does not mean lower compensation. In Martin v Andrews and Anor [2016] QSC 020, the plaintiff was assessed with 5% whole person impairment but was awarded $750,000 for future economic loss. The takeaway from this case is that if the court views the impact of the injury to be more significant than the degree of permanent impairment, then the plaintiff may be entitled to higher compensation. 

It is strongly advised that you consult a legal expert before accepting a lump sum offer, as you may be entitled to more compensation despite a low permanent impairment rating. 

How much WorkCover compensation am I entitled to?

As injuries vary from one to another, the most effective way to get an indication of how much WorkCover compensation you are entitled to is to consult a legal expert. By simply discussing your situation and circumstance, an experienced personal injury lawyer will have an idea on what entitlements you will be able to claim for and how much WorkCover compensation you can expect. 

How long will a WorkCover impairment claim take?

The complexity of your injuries will have a direct impact on how long a WorkCover impairment claim can take. Other factors that affect the duration of a claim include your medical condition and how long it will take for your injuries to stabilise, as these have a direct impact on the ability to make a permanent impairment assessment. 

Speaking to a lawyer will help you get a good idea on timeframes based on your circumstances and their experience. 

Can I make a common law claim for damages for my work injury? 

Starting a common law claim due to permanent impairment

If the degree of permanent impairment is equal to or above 20%, you will be able to take the WorkCover permanent impairment lump sum and still bring a Common Law claim for damages. 

If the degree of permanent impairment is below 20%, you will have to choose between taking the WorkCover permanent impairment lump sum or to pursue a Common Law claim for damages. If you take the lump sum offer, you will lose your right to a Common Law claim and vice versa. 

To ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive maximum entitlement, consult one of our lawyers at Smith’s Lawyers before responding to a WorkCover lump sum offer or a WorkCover Notice of Assessment. Taking the wrong step can risk you losing all rights of entitlement to a significant compensation.

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Last update on:
September 4, 2020
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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