WorkCover settlement conferences (Vic)
When you refer to a WorkCover settlement conference, in most cases what you’re referring to is a conference that occurs in relation to a WorkCover common law claim.
This page will explore WorkCover settlement conferences in detail.
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When do WorkCover settlement conferences typically occur?
A WorkCover settlement conference can occur at any time after a serious injury application has been lodged and you’ve obtained a serious injury certificate.
A serious injury application is the first step to obtaining lump sum compensation in the form of common law damages after you’ve suffered an injury at work.
Let’s say that you lodge a serious injury application.
The Victorian WorkCover authority then appoint lawyers to consider the application.
They have 120 days to make a decision in relation to your application.
That decision is either to award you with a serious injury certificate or not.
They can award you with a serious injury certificate either very early on after the lodgement of the serious injury application, or very close to the 120th day (or even on the 120th day).
Assuming they do award you with a serious injury certificate, then the next step in the process would be to go to a settlement conference.
If you do not get awarded with a serious injury certificate during this 120 day period, then if you wish to continue to pursue the matter, it would need to go before a Judge in the County Court who will then need to determine whether you have a serious injury.
If you do succeed and prove that you have a serious injury, then, as mentioned above, the matter will go to a settlement conference.
When else can the matter go to a settlement conference?
A settlement conference can really occur at any time during a common law matter.
So let’s say that you have obtained a serious injury certificate but the parties can’t come to an agreement in terms of the appropriate amount of compensation to be paid to you.
What would then need to happen is the parties would be required to make written offers. These offers are called statutory offers and statutory counter offers.
Something called a writ might then be issued, which would initiate either County Court or Supreme Court proceedings and the matter would be set down for hearing.
At any time, the parties can choose to conference the matter to resolve it and any conference that takes place would be considered to be a settlement conference.
One point worth noting however is that a settlement conference is different to a mediation.
Mediations are explored in detail here.
A mediation involves a mediator who is often a barrister, assisting discussions between the parties to take place.
During a WorkCover common law matter, a mediation will only occur in one instance and that is before the matter is to be heard in court after a writ has been issued.
In relation to a settlement conference, there is no independent person present to assist the discussions between the parties like there is in a mediation.
What happens at a settlement conference?
This really depends upon how the parties intend to conduct the conference.
However, what you might find is that things progress this way:
Prior to the conference commencing, you’ll be in a room with your representatives. You may have a solicitor and a barrister.
They will likely discuss the possible outcomes with you and will discuss the process to be followed on the day.
Your lawyers will likely ask you some further questions which might relate to the nature of your injury, treatment, your restrictions, your work, or the issue of negligence.
Your representative/s will then go into a room with the representatives of the Victorian WorkCover authority.
In most cases, you will not be required to go into this room with everyone, but in a small number of cases you may be asked.
Once discussions have taken place which could be 10 minutes or an hour or more depending upon the issues to be discussed, your lawyer/s will then come back into the room you’re in and discuss matters with you.
They’ll likely relay some of what was said in the room with the other party and ask you some further questions.
Your instructions will likely then be sought in relation to an offer to be made either to commence negotiations or to put a counter offer in relation to an offer made by the other side.
The parties may then commence a period of negotiation.
This could continue for a short period of time or it may take several hours.
At the end if your matter has resolved then you may be provided with a document to sign.
If not you will be required to sign something in the days or weeks after the conference.
You will then in most cases be paid your settlement monies about 4-6 weeks after you’ve signed the required documentation.
If the matter doesn’t resolve at the settlement conference then negotiations can still take place after the settlement conference and many matters can resolve this way.
Sometimes further information needs to be sought, for example in the form of medical material asking a doctor to comment on a specific issue or issues.
A WorkCover settlement conference usually refers to a conference that relates to the negotiating the potential settlement of a common law claim.
The settlement conference can occur at any time after the lodgement of a serious injury application, once a serious injury certificate has been obtained.