Paul Smith broke three vertebrae in his back in a car
accident. Photo / Dean Purcell
A man who broke his back in three places in a car
accident had to battle ACC three times over 12 years to get
compensation and he's still waiting.
His case is one of dozens reported to the Herald following an
article about a woman's three-year fight against ACC after it
cut entitlements, claiming her injury was the result of a
Paul Smith broke three vertebrae in his back when he was
rear-ended at high speed on Auckland's Southern Motorway in
But the then 28-year-old was diagnosed with whiplash injury
and fibromyalgia chronic pain.
He tried to continue working as an IT consultant but was
eventually asked to leave.
In 2001 ACC asked Mr Smith to see specialist Brian Otto. "I
drove the approximately 67km from my home in Glenfield only
to be told Mr Otto had reviewed my case without me present
and I could go home."
Mr Smith was diagnosed with pain syndrome caused by a
degenerative spine condition, and ACC stopped entitlements.
He had to sell his house, give away his dog, had his car
repossessed, moved in with his mother and went on an
He went to the Disputes Resolution Service in mid-2001 which
upheld ACC's decision, but he did not give up, seeking an MRI
scan through the public health system in 2005.
It showed two of the three broken vertebrae with a protruding
disc pressing on the left sciatic nerve. Surgery was
recommended to fuse the lower spine but ACC refused to pay.
Mr Smith hired a lawyer and in 2010 the case was to be heard
in the District Court, when ACC offered a settlement
including weekly compensation, backdating the entitlements to
2005 and covering the surgery.
After ACC again cut Mr Smith's entitlements in February 2012
he went back to the Disputes Resolution Service in March this
year and won, though he still hasn't received the backdated
ACC said Mr Smith's initial treatment was focused on injuries
consistent with whiplash. "It was only some time later when
Mr Smith's neck and arm injuries became less of an issue that
his back pain issues emerged," a spokesman said.
He said ACC acknowledged there had been unacceptable delays
in making his back payments and it apologised to Mr Smith
after the Herald made inquiries.
Labour spokeswoman for ACC, Sue Moroney, said she had fielded
many concerns about ACC-appointed specialists. "It is a cause
for concern that there's not a lot of transparency around
The Minister for ACC, Judith Collins, said she expected the
corporation to take the medical opinions it received
"ACC must ensure entitlements are delivered transparently and
fairly to those who need them. It therefore relies in good
faith on the integrity and expertise of medical assessors and
their reports," she said.
"This is why they do the right thing and offer settlement
when they receive other medical reports on the claim with
more compelling rationale and consistency than the original