The Accident Compensation Corporation (‘the ACC’) is a New Zealand Crown Entity set up under the Accident Compensation Act 2001 (‘the Act’) that is responsible for providing accident insurance for all personal injuries. The ACC scheme is a ‘no fault’ system, which means that a person gets cover for an accident regardless of how the accident occurred or who caused it. This system effectively means that individuals forego the right to sue others for compensatory damages following an injury in return for receiving personal injury cover from ACC. ACC’s main purpose is to promote injury prevention measures, provide rehabilitation and fair compensation to those eligible under the Act.
The notion of a ‘no fault’ compensation system was first conceptualised in 1967 in the “Woodhouse Report” authored by Mr Justice Woodhouse (now the Right Hon. Sir Owen Woodhouse). The report was the result of a Royal Commission of Inquiry in respect of concerns about New Zealand’s previously inadequate worker compensation laws. This led to one ofNew Zealand’s most significant legal reforms with the establishment of the ACC, which first came into operation on 1 April 1974.
ACC cover is available for personal injuries sustained by all New Zealanders and visitors to New Zealand, regardless of the injured person’s employment, status or age. Cover also extends to New Zealand residents returning from overseas with an injury; provided that they have not been out of the country for more than six months (some exceptions to the six month rule can apply where an individual has been overseas for work purposes).
“Personal injury” includes:
mental injury suffered due to physical injury,
mental injury caused by certain criminal acts,
damage (other than wear or tear) to dentures or prostheses that replace part of the human body, and
death due to a physical injury.
There are a number of different types of support that ACC is able to provide. These include:
Treatment – most treatments are funded by ACC. There may however be instances where a surcharge is required. Some elective surgery and dental treatments may also be covered.
Ancillary services – services such as emergency transport by ambulance and assistance with accommodation may be provided in certain circumstances.
Rehabilitation - social and vocational rehabilitation is provided by ACC to assist an individual to return to work as soon as possible.
Fair compensation – weekly compensation for loss of earnings or loss of potential earnings is available for those entitled. Some individuals who have been permanently impaired as a result of a personal injury may also be entitled to a lump sum payment.
Death benefits – where a person dies as a result of the personal injury, ACC may be able to help the family of the deceased by providing support such as funeral grants, weekly compensation to dependants and assistance with childcare.