6 Dec 2015

ACC appeal delays 'unacceptable'

4:32 pm on 6 December 2015

The government wants to change the rules for appealing against an Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) decision to speed up the process and make it fairer, it says.

The corporation declines about 3 percent of cases each year, and appeals are currently taking an average of 670 days to be dealt with through the court system.

Earlier this year, a review by support group for injured people Acclaim Otago found it was futile for most people to fight ACC decisions in court.

It found many lacked access to the legal information and resources needed to effectively argue a case.

ACC Minister Nikki Kaye has now released a discussion paper (PDF, 203KB) showing four options for ACC appeals.

The first option is the status quo, where District Courts are used for appeals. The second is similar, but with new appeal rules and timeframes.

The third and fourth options keep those new rules and would also create an Appeal Tribunal, which could more than halve the total appeal time from 670 to 250 days.

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ACC Minister Nikki Kaye (pictured) has appointed Miriam Dean QC to review the process. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The minister said it was important people had access to a fair, effective and timely appeals process. It could be a traumatic experience for those whose claims were declined, she said.

"It is unacceptable to me that it's taking 670 days on average for people to get through the courts. That's why we're looking at this tribunal option.

"But also, when you read that Acclaim Otago report, issues of just legal representation, how evidence is collected - all of these things are really important to have a look at."

Ms Kaye said she was appointing Miriam Dean QC to do an independent review of the ACC appeals process.

It would focus on access to the law, evidence, whether claimants were being heard and legal representation.

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