What representation can help with
Once you have tried to solve the problems yourself with ACC and you are still not satisfied, it's very important to get formal representation. This person can be a lawyer or an advocate.
They can understand the details of your case and work out the best way to resolve problems with ACC.
We recognise that representatives charge clients and this creates a barrier to access to justice for injured people. We also recognise that many injured people have very limited ability to pay for representation. This is one of the reasons why we have undertaken research in this area. This is something you will need to discuss with representatives when you first contact them.
One of the most important things to do is to obtain the right kind of independent medical evidence. If you cannot afford to do this, you need to discuss with your representative how to get ACC to fund the provision of independent medical evidence. This can be difficult but it is worth trying.
Getting help from the Workplace Injury Advocacy Service
The Workplace Injury Advocacy Service is a free advocacy service. Their advocates will work with you to:
- Find the best way to resolve any problem in accessing your ACC entitlement
- Help to prepare for meetings with ACC or an accredited employer
- Identify other resources available to you
You can contact the Workplace Injury Advocacy Service here: http://www.union.org.nz/workplace-injury-advocacy-service/
Going to Talk
– Meet – Resolve's Conciliation
– Meet – Resolve is a new dispute resolution service. It provides "Conciliation". This is a name for a meeting where everything that is said is confidential so what people say there can't be used in Court or anywhere else. It is a really good way to break down barriers and understand the different perspectives people have. It is run by a "conciliator" who is independent of ACC and everyone else involved. The conciliators in this area are very experienced and skilled in getting people talking to each other rather than arguing. It is informal so you don't have to prepare long written documents. It is not like Court.
Generally speaking, conciliation is the best way to move forward with solving problems with ACC that haven't been sorted out when you first contact ACC. There are several reasons for this. Conciliation is the most effective way for ACC to understand what you think is wrong about what has gone on and it is the most effective way of working out what needs to be done to sort the problem out.
Conciliations do not usually deal with legal arguments. The conciliator can create an environment where both you and ACC can work collaboratively to map out a way to get from the dispute to the end of the process where you get the help you need. Because of the conciliator's special skills and experience, they can help explain what has happened, what the legal tests are, and how to identify options for moving forward. This way forward can often involve obtaining expert medical evidence with agreed questions in a referral letter along with an agreed bundle of documents. At conciliation, you can ask ACC to pay for these assessments. They don't have to, but often they can see it will help solve the problems, so they do.
Because you and ACC both have the chance to have input into the final result, you can often find a way to work out the differences even if they are not technically part of the "decision" that ACC has already made.
You can learn more about Talk – Meet – Resolve here: https://www.talkmeetresolve.co.nz/
Going to Review
You can also go to "review". This is a formal statutory dispute resolution process. It is meant to be a legal process. There are numerous well-publicised issues with the review process, in terms of access to justice barriers, the independence of reviewers, the competence of reviewers to deal with conflicts of interest, and the lawful authority for the reviewers to hold review hearings.
In saying that, there are some very good reviewers and the process is worth considering. You should discuss this with your representative and they can give you some advice about what is best for you in your circumstances.
ACC is currently reconsidering its approach to reviews and reviewers and by mid-2019, we hope there will be some big changes in place that should go a long way towards improving things with ACC reviews.
Going to Court
If you go to review and are not successful, you have the right of appeal to the District Court. You should seek representation early in the appeal process.
What are the options for representation
Law Firms specialising in ACC Law
There are a few law firms that have significant expertise in resolving disputes with ACC. You can contact them to see if they can help. They include Hazel Armstrong Law, John Miller Law, Peter Sara Law and Schmidt and Peart Law.
Other Lawyers and Advocates
Another option is for you to contact the Minister and the Associate Minister for ACC. This can be a good option if you do not think that ACC is trying to solve the problem or the problem is likely to be a problem with systems that go wider than your individual case. These are very important to identify. You should not receive any discriminatory treatment because of making a complaint to the Minister.
It's important that you are respectful, polite, brief and specific about the issue you have identified, but the Minister is the elected official responsible and accountable for oversight of the ACC system and its important they hear what you have to say. The Government will not make changes if they do not know about the problems in the system.
If you would like a raise a concern that is not about your case but involves important issues that impact on lots of people, you can contact the Minister for ACC. The Minister will not get involved in "individual cases" but is interested in examples of system wide problems.
If you would like someone to look into your individual case, you should write to the Associate Minister for ACC.
You can also contact your Member of Parliament and ask them to write to one of the Ministers on your behalf. You can find your Member of Parliament here.
Different political parties also have spokespersons for ACC who may be able to help by contacting the Ministers or by asking questions of the Ministers. The political parties currently in Parliament are National, Labour, New Zealand First, Greens and ACT.