Some ACC claimants are being ''denied justice'' through
problems in accessing a ''very small pool'' of lawyers
specialising in ACC cases, and the high costs often involved in
challenging ACC decisions.
These are among key points made in a draft report sent to the
United Nations last month by Otago claimant support group
The group last year gained a $10,000 New Zealand Law
Foundation Shadow Report Award to prepare the report.
The submission deals with New Zealand's compliance with the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD),
which is being reviewed by the UN Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights later this year.
The Otago draft report noted there had been efforts to
''limit financial outflows from the scheme'', and the rights
of people with disabilities covered by ACC were ''not being
The small pool of ACC law specialists, and the limited costs
awarded for success, and regulatory restrictions on legal
aid, had ''significantly reduced'' the number of people
providing ''legal services'' to injured New Zealanders in a
''financially viable'' way.
Many ACC law specialists were nearing the ''end of their
careers'' and there was no ''career path'' for younger
lawyers to become involved.
Law schools did not offer a ''dedicated'' ACC law course, the
subject being covered as part of the law of torts.
Such limitations meant a ''severely limited access to
justice'' for injured people and the situation would ''get
worse'', as practitioners retired, the report said.
ACC officials said the wider matters raised, including lawyer
workforce issues, were outside ACC's operational
But it was important to state that reviews of ACC decisions
involved an ''independent and robust'' process, undertaken by
FairWay Resolution, and ACC made claimants aware of their
review rights, officials said.
University of Otago law faculty dean Prof Mark Henaghan
praised Acclaim Otago for highlighting important issues
through its report, which covers many issues, including
A ''straitjacket'' of controls on some ACC-related legal
fees, and medical report preparation costs, imposed by
government regulation, had become ''very unfair'', he said.
Long-term ACC claimants, particularly injured people who were
in pain and whose income had been lost, had limited ability
to fund any appeal against ACC decisions which had a ''major
impact'' on their lives.
ACC itself was not subject to comparable financial
restrictions, including in commissioning medical reports, and
had ''massive resources'' to call on.
He acknowledged wider legal workforce concerns, but believed
younger lawyers would also seek to practice in this field,
and the Otago faculty was likely to offer New Zealand's first
specialised paper on ACC.
Acclaim Otago said the list of issues included in its report
had been ''endorsed by a consensus of experts'' throughout