A new beginning: The Personal Injury Commission commences 1 March 2021

  • Newsletter Article
  • Published 16.02.2021

Key Takeaways

The Personal Injury Commission (PIC)* is set to commence operations on 1 March 2021 replacing the Workers Compensation Commission (WCC) and the Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for resolving disputes that arise in connection with workers compensation and motor accidents legislation.

The PIC will incorporate the dispute resolution functions currently undertaken by the DRS, CARS, MAS and the WCC under specialist workers compensation and motor accidents divisions operating from a central registry.

Each of the Divisions will have a Division Head to assist the PIC President and Deputy Presidents in the areas of practice and procedure.

The stated purpose of the Commission  is to simplify the dispute resolution process and deal with disputes ‘justly, quickly, and as cost efficiently as possible.

The commencement of the new tribunal does not change the current benefits and entitlements that exist under the workers compensation and CTP schemes, however, new Rules have been formulated to govern practice and procedure aiming to harmonise the rules across both divisions.

Staffing

Under the transitional provisions of the Act, all current office holders of the WCC will transfer to the PIC. This includes the WCC President, Deputy Presidents, Registrar, Arbitrators, Mediators and Approved Medical Specialists.

From the CTP side, the Principal Claims Assessor, Claims Assessors, Merit Reviewers and Medical Assessors will transfer to the PIC on condition that DRS assessors can no longer practise in the jurisdiction and simultaneously be decision-makers.

Judge Gerard Phillips, the current President of the WCC is the inaugural President of the PIC with Division Heads as follows:

  • Workers Compensation Division – Mr Rodney Parsons (current Registrar of the WCC)
  • Motor Accidents Division – Ms Marie Johns (current Principal Claims Assessor of the DRS)

Marianne Christmann is the Executive Director and Principal Registrar of the PIC.

A list of the Principal and General members appointed by the NSW government appears at the end of this article.

The PIC structure will see tribunal staff come under the direction of the Principal Registrar while the remaining members come under the direction of the division heads.

Objectives of the PIC

Aside from establishing an independent tribunal to deal with disputes under the schemes, the objectives envisaged by the Act are:

  1. To ensure that the Commission  is accessible, professional and responsive to the needs of all of its users; is open and transparent about its processes, and encourages early dispute resolution.
  2. To enable the Commission to resolve the real issues in proceedings justly, quickly, cost effectively and with as little formality as possible.
  3. To ensure that the decisions of the Commission are timely, fair, consistent and of a high quality.
  4. To promote public confidence in the decision- making of the Commission and in the conduct of its members.
  5. To ensure that the Commission publicises and disseminates information concerning its processes, and establishes effective liaison and communication with interested parties concerning its processes and the role of the Commission.

To make appropriate use of the knowledge and experience of members and other decision-makers.

Reference Groups

Several reference groups have been appointed so that the positions and views of stakeholders are heard. These groups include the PIC Stakeholder Reference Group (members of the PIC, legal profession, insurance industry, unions and government), the PIC Medical Assessors Reference Group and the PIC Mediator Reference Group.

Rodney Parsons has an eye to the future of the PIC commenting: ‘There is quite a lot of personal injury dispute resolution jurisdictions within NSW which could easily be attracted to the PIC, so there is a lot of pressure on success within that first year and there is a lot of work to be done to harmonise the jurisdictions.’

Any current or pending matters in the WCC will transfer to the PIC to be heard and determined in accordance with the legislative framework that applied before the establishment of the PIC with the current caseload expected to be
finalised within six months.

For all new cases filed in the PIC on or after 1 March 2021, the new PIC Regulations and Rules will apply.

The PIC’s Digital Platform

Judge Phillips has confirmed the PIC’s commitment to retain digital platforms for the delivery of services that will particularly assist claimants in regional areas with provision for hearings to be held by telephone or audio-visual means.

In terms of accessing published decisions, these will be available on the PIC website as well as legal sites such as AustLII and JADE.

Implications

The establishment of the PIC is set to offer a seamless transition for parties involved in disputes in the WCC and DRS to provide a quick and effective means for dispute resolution with as little upheaval as possible.

The PIC is currently conducting a comprehensive program of briefing throughout February to ensure that stakeholders are aware of the PIC’s dispute management processes, contact details and rules of engagement from 1 March 2021.

Legislation

Personal Injury Commission Act 2020

Personal Injury Commission Regulation 2020

Motor Accidents and Workers Compensation Legislation  Amendment Regulation 2020

Personal Injury Commission Rules published 8 February 2021

Appointments to the PIC

Principal members

  • Ms Josephine Bamber
  • Mr John Harris

General members (full time)

  • Mr Alexander Bolton
  • Ms Belinda Cassidy
  • Ms Susan McTegg
  • Mr Terence O’Riain
  • Mr Ray Plibersek
  • Mr Brett Williams
     

John Hick

Consultant

P: 02 8257 5720

Email John