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NZLS does not support ACC appeal reform proposals

17 March 2016

The New Zealand Law Society says it cannot support any of four options proposed for reform of the ACC appeals process.

In its comments to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on its discussion document Accident Compensation Appeals - options for reform, the Law Society says none of the proposals is likely to achieve the desired outcomes in a way that is fair and fully informed.

"Regrettably, the Law Society considers that none of the reform options outlined in the discussion document addresses the defects in the current ACC appeals system," the Law Society says.

"Any change would need to be a clear improvement on the status quo. There is no indication that would be the case under any of the proposals for change."

While the Law Society says it supports continuing the current ACC appeals system in preference to the reform options, it says there is no doubt that improvements can and should be made to the current system.

The main factors contributing to delay and cost in progressing appeals to a hearing appear to be difficulties in obtaining expert evidence, delays in the system, problems with the review process and issues with legal aid and representation.

"The main reasons for delay appear to be a combination of systemic issues in the review and appeal processes," the Law Society says.

"It is apparent however from the discussion document that there is a general trend of improving figures, and delays are reducing. The discussion document ... notes that 'further work will be carried out to evaluate whether [current] initiatives can substantially and sustainably reduce the average age of appeals. This would take the pressure off the District Court, which may affect whether or not to establish the [proposed Accident Compensation Appeal] Tribunal'.

"That further evaluation data must be central to informing the analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of a change to the status quo."

Noting that it is committed to supporting the long-term sustainability of the ACC compensation scheme, the Law Society says it would welcome further engagement with the Minister and officials about viable reform options.

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Last updated on the 21st March 2016