Reviewed by Peter Sara
Getting the balance right is key when writing a book about ACC. The technical aspects of the Act are complex and invite controversy and debate. Large tomes could be written which thoroughly address the issues, but hardly anyone would be interested in reading them.
A practical handbook has appeal, but must grapple with some of the issues at an insightful level to avoid simplistic “paint by numbers” solutions being offered. A really useful book must be both practical (how to do it) and analytical (why).
For those unused to the Kafkaesque world of ACC, the language used is a bit like listening to the audio commentary at an Olympic ice skating event. What looks to the outsider as a big twirly jump with a spin landing on one foot, is actually a triple Salchow or a quadruple Axel. Thus the reader must quickly discover terms such as “cover” are precise legal terms of art which have clear boundaries and critical significance.
Ben Thompson has written his book with the practitioner in mind and from the perspective of an old campaigner. The book begins with a discussion about gathering and using medical evidence. Since most ACC cases are won or lost on the strength or otherwise of the medical evidence, the primacy of medical evidence cannot be understated. This discussion deserves first place in the book, and rightly so. If legal practitioners read nothing else, at least read this first chapter.
The book goes on to address all the important matters affecting claimants. The Accident Compensation Act itself is not well designed and key passages are all over the place. What Ben Thompson has done is bring these key sections together under the appropriate headings such as cover, entitlements, weekly compensation and so on. Since not all statutory provisions are created equal, some key sections are dealt with at greater length and detail than others.
Similarly, there is much more exposition of applicable case law dealing with the big issues. Mr Thompson does not shy away from alerting the reader to policy issues either, which is a refreshing reminder that as lawyers we have a responsibility to keep law reform in view.
Throughout the book, there are tips for practitioners. As a fellow practitioner in this highly specialised area, I fully endorse what is offered by way of advice. I am happy to have been given a copy of this book for the purposes of writing this review. I have found it a most useful addition to my legal armoury.
Accident Compensation Act: Key Sections and Commentary, LexisNexis NZ Ltd, November 2014, 978-1-927227-96-1, 195 pages, paperback and e-book, $120 (GST included, p&h excluded).
Peter Sara is a specialist ACC lawyer based in Dunedin. He was admitted to the bar in 1977 and is a member of the Law Society’s Accident Compensation Committee.