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22.1 Fairness and Courtesy to Clients
MRCC Delegates (assessors) are expected to meet the following standards when undertaking the determination of initial liability or assessment of an amount of compensation:
- assessors will avoid conflicts of interest and will determine claims on an objective basis according to the evidence, avoiding preference or prejudice in relation to clients.
- assessors will gather and properly document all necessary medical and other evidence, while avoiding 'over or under-investigation' of a claim. The nature and extent of investigation required is a matter of judgment in the individual case, bearing in mind the severity of the injury, the manifest nature of certain injuries and events, the claims history of the claimant, and the likely life-time cost of the claim.
- in conducting investigations and dealing with clients, assessors will observe the requirements of the Privacy Act, the MRCC Covert Surveillance Guidelines (Paragraph 25.1 below), the DVA Service Charter and the requirements of the SRC Act. This includes (in S72(a)) a requirement that MRCC when making determinations 'shall be guided by equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities'. Note that S72(a) does not authorise departure from specific requirements of the SRC Act.
- clients have a right to communicate with MRCC through their legal advisers if they choose to do so; in such cases, direct communication with the client should be avoided and any necessary letters or other communications should be addressed to the legal representative. It is acceptable to act on the written advice of a firm of solicitors that they represent a client; direct confirmation by the client is not required unless there is some confusion about the issue (e.g. two different firms claim they have instructions to act). Where, however, a person other than a solicitor claims to be acting on behalf of, or assisting, a client, their authority to act should be confirmed with the client.
- if written representations are received in a MRCC State or Territory office from a State, Territory or 'Federal' Member of Parliament, Senator or similar, the matter should be discussed with staff in the Policy and Procedures Section of MRCC's National Office in Canberra. MRCC Regional office staff should not respond to such written representations other than to acknowledge that the correspondence has been received and has been referred to Canberra for investigation and a direct reply.
- if verbal representations are received in a MRCC State or Territory office from a State, Territory or 'Federal' Member of Parliament, Senator or similar, MRCC staff may seek to assist the person making the enquiry, providing they are satisfied that the person making the enquiry has the claimant's authority to act on his or her behalf. Where necessary, Delegates should confirm with the claimant that the person making the enquiry does in fact have the claimant's permission to do so before providing any information about the claimant or his or her claims.
- breaches of claimants' privacy are serious matters and must be avoided. Where it is considered appropriate to release personal information over the telephone, the name of the person making the enquiry and other relevant details must be recorded both on file and also in the 'Contacts and Notes' section of Defcare records. It is also important to document any advice given.