Dunedin man's long ACC battle set to pay off with law change

Fin Heads
Fin Heads
Dunedin man Fin Heads’ lengthy battle with the Accident Compensation Corporation is about to have a parliamentary sequel,  his successful Human Rights Review Tribunal case being the spur for a possible law change.

In 2008, Mr Heads’ wife, Shirley, died after being struck by a car while running an errand.

The ACC later wrote to Mr Heads to tell him he was only entitled to receive both his wife’s ACC compensation and his national superannuation for one year, and he must then choose to receive either the ACC payment for the next four years, or keep his super and relinquish the compensation.

After a five-year  tussle with the ACC, in 2014 the Human Rights Review Tribunal accepted Mr Heads’ argument that superannuation was an entitlement rather than a benefit, and that the ACC Act was discriminatory in making people in Mr Heads’ position relinquish their na-tional super.

However, the ACC had not broken the law.

Now, a further four years later, the Government is moving to change the law to reflect the tribunal’s decision in Mr Heads’ case.

The Accident Compensation Amendment Bill is now before the education and workforce select committee, and the draft legislation provides that certain claimants would be entitled to up to 24 months’  weekly compensation, even if they received superannuation.

In addition, weekly compensation for a surviving spouse or partner would not be affected by their reaching superannuation age.

Mr Heads will make a submission on the Bill, and said he was eagerly awaiting his chance to speak to the select committee.

"It’s been so convoluted.

"A lot of the people [who would have benefited] will be dead by now, and I feel sorry for them."

The ACC, in an OIA response to Mr Heads, said around 500 people had been placed in a similar position to him, of having to choose between superannuation and compensation payments.

"The only time it can happen is when  the beneficiary is over 65 and their partner is under 65," Mr Heads said.

"That’s a time of in your life when making these decisions isn’t easy, and I feel most of these people would have just given up the fight."

Mr Heads said the process had been tedious and annoying, and he had lost much time he would rather have spent with his family working on his case.

"To me, the [ACC levy] money that Shirley paid out of her wages was an insurance," Mr Heads said.

"Where else in the world if somebody who has an insurance gets killed, does the beneficiary have to pay? Because that’s how I look at it."

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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