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Challenging ACC decisions a hard road

Challenging ACC decisions a hard road

In the media today there have been two stories which highlight just two of the issues surrounding the difficult path claimants often face when challenging an ACC decision.

Acclaim Otago has for a number of years highlighted that access to justice is an area of concern. We have co-authored several reports since 2010 which identified barriers such as access to legal representation. In the INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF THE ACCLAIM OTAGO (INC) JULY 2015 REPORT INTO ACCIDENT COMPENSATION DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESSES undertaken by Miriam Dean QC, Ms Dean stated:

The review agrees with Acclaim that the lack of representation is a barrier to claimants seeking to appeal against ACC decisions. The barrier exists because of a considerable imbalance in the resources ACC can bring to bear on cases compared with those available to claimants, especially in a very tight legal market. (p 52 Dean, 2016)

Dr Denise Powell, spokesperson for ACCLAIM Otago (Inc) says “Many claimants don’t know their rights, and furthermore either can’t afford or access legal representation”. Acclaim believes the majority of advocates do an outstanding job, but over the years unfortunately they have heard about those who charge claimants excessive fees, or charge a percentage of their weekly compensation as a fee, or as in the case highlighted this morning in the Sunday Star Times (p5) claim the full amount of any backdated compensation awarded.

The Act clearly outlines that ACC is able to support claimants via ACC-funded advocacy services. “There is an urgent need for an independent advocacy service to help claimants steer their way through the dispute process at least in the initial stages” says Dr Powell.

Acclaim believes that the Health and Disability Commission Advocacy Service which comes under the jurisdiction of the Health and Disability Commissioner, provides a valuable template for such a nationwide service.

However “in order for the service to be completely independent and transparent we believe that a Personal Injury Commissioner (as identified in the Solving the Problem Report), with independent and competent advocates and a separate complaints process would go a considerable way to overcoming the issue of "unscrupulous advocates".

Acclaim believes that funding this service would show a clear commitment to ACC’s new vision and values which include being “customer focused” and to put “people before process”.
Dean Report available here http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/employment-skills/legislation-reviews/accident-compensation-dispute-resolution/document-and-images-library/appendix-one.pdf
Solving the Problem report available here http://acclaimotago.org/wp-content/uploads/Solving-the-Problem-Public-Report.pdf

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