Overview of the ACC scheme

Accident Compensation Act 2001

New Zealand’s accident compensation scheme provides accident insurance cover for accidental injuries to New Zealand citizens and residents and to temporary visitors to New Zealand.

Most ACC claims involve physical injuries caused by accidents. However, sometimes nervous shock and other mental conditions are covered too (see “Nervous shock and other mental conditions: Sometimes covered”, under “When you’re covered by ACC and when you’re not”).

Sometimes physical conditions may be covered even though they’re caused gradually (for example, through long-term exposure at work to substances like asbestos: see “Conditions caused gradually: Covered only if work-related”, under “When you’re covered by ACC and when you’re not”).

To make a claim, you don’t have to show that some other person was at fault and caused your injury, and so ACC is sometimes described as “a no-fault scheme”. Whether you fell over at home, or twisted your knee playing sport, or were injured in a car accident when another driver failed to give way to you, you’ll be covered by ACC.

The ACC scheme has been running since the mid-1970s. When the scheme was introduced, it took away the right to sue in the courts for injuries covered by the scheme. However, if your injury isn’t covered by ACC and was caused by someone else’s actions, you can sue them in court for compensation (“damages”). For example, you might sue for negligence.

Accident Compensation Act 2001, ss 317, 319

Note: In some cases, you may be able to sue in the courts for what are called “exemplary damages” even if your injury is covered by ACC. Exemplary damages are awarded by the courts for particularly blatant and reckless behaviour that causes an injury to someone. They’re awarded to punish the wrongdoer (so they’re sometimes called “punitive” damages), and they go over and above an amount that’s necessary to compensate the person who was injured.

What cover does the accident compensation scheme provide?

Costs covered under the accident compensation scheme include:

  • medical and other treatment
  • loss of income (weekly compensation)
  • social rehabilitation (aimed at restoring your everyday independence outside the workplace)
  • vocational rehabilitation (aimed at restoring your independence in your working life)
  • lump sums for permanent disabilities (“permanent impairment”).

For more information see “Costs covered by ACC: Treatment, compensation and other support” in this chapter.

What if I’m injured while I’m overseas?

Accident Compensation Act 2001, ss 17, 22

You’re covered by ACC if you’re injured while you’re overseas. You have to be “ordinarily resident” in New Zealand, which means that you have a permanent home here (or your partner or child is a resident). However, you’re not covered if you have been overseas for more than six months, or if when you left New Zealand you had intended to be out of the country for more than six months (unless you were overseas for work reasons and intended to come back to live in New Zealand).

Are overseas visitors covered by ACC?

Accident Compensation Act 2001, s 23

Yes. Visitors to New Zealand are covered by ACC for injuries that happen here, except when they’re on board, or boarding, or leaving any ship or aircraft on which they have come to visit New Zealand, or which they are leaving New Zealand on or are staying on while visiting New Zealand.

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