Bill to introduce ACC appeal fee criticised

Peter Sara
Peter Sara
Dunedin lawyer Peter Sara says a move by the Government which could enable a filing fee to be imposed for ACC appeals in the district court is "repugnant" and unfair to injured people.

"I don't agree with it," Mr Sara said.

Proposed changes linked to the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Bill, still at the second reading stage in Parliament, allow for regulations to be created to require a filing fee for ACC district court appeals.

It is understood the proposed law changes are Ministry of Justice-led, and that introducing any ACC-related fee regulations would require Cabinet approval.

Mr Sara agreed with critical submissions made by Dunedin-based ACC claimant support group Acclaim Otago over the proposed law change, which said it was a "disappointing" development.

Denise Powell
Denise Powell
If people wanted to pursue a dispute with their neighbours through the civil courts, a filing fee was appropriate, but for injured people it was compulsory to use the ACC system and its legislation.

"You've got no choice to be part of it."

It was wrong in principle for injured people who often had no ACC-related income and were in tough financial circumstances to be charged a filing fee for appealing against the actions of a powerful corporation with huge resources.

Several reports supported by Acclaim Otago and a previous government review have highlighted the need to overcome barriers to justice for ACC claimants.

But Mr Sara said this proposed change was "a further barrier to justice", and he had not seen any "logical, reasonable argument" in favour of it.

Claimants won at least about 30% of district court appeals, and the possibility of a filing fee raised a further "spectre" of adding further costs to what was already a "horrendously expensive" process for many appellants, he said.

Iain Lees-Galloway
Iain Lees-Galloway
Acclaim Otago spokeswoman Dr Denise Powell said a filing fee was unfair and inappropriate for injured people. Dr Powell said such a fee flew in the face of efforts to reduce barriers to justice.

Approached for comment, ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the provision was an enabling one only and "no fee would be introduced until a decision was made to make regulations prescribing a fee".

If regulations were made, the fee would be about $20-$30, "in line with other civil jurisdictions", he said.

"The decision to introduce the enabling provision was part of a wider civil fees review.

"Currently ACC is inconsistent with other civil jurisdictions who all have a small filing fee.

"Access to justice for ACC claimants must be balanced with considerations of equity and constancy across the court system as a whole."

ACC claimants could still participate in alternative dispute resolution and the independent review process at "no additional cost," Mr Lees-Galloway said.

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