Accident compensation (ACC)
Overview of the ACC scheme
Note: “ACC” stands for “Accident Compensation Corporation,” which is the government organisation that manages the accident compensation scheme and makes decisions about claims. But often the term “ACC” is used more generally to refer to the whole scheme and the compensation you get under it – as when someone says, “I’m getting ACC for my injury.” In this chapter, we use “ACC” in both those senses, and it should be clear from the context which one we mean.
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.
The ACC scheme involves a two-step process. The first step is establishing your injury is covered by the scheme. Whether you’re covered by ACC will depend on if you meet the criteria or legal definition of “accident” set out in the Accident Compensation Act (see: “When you’re covered by ACC, and when you’re not”).
Once it is accepted you have “cover,” the second step is applying for “entitlements”. You can apply for multiple entitlements, although each entitlement has its own set of legal requirements that must be met (see: “ACC entitlements: Treatment, compensation and other support”).
Most ACC claims involve physical injuries caused by accidents. However, sometimes mental injuries are covered too (see: “Mental injuries: sometimes covered”).
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”).
The types of injuries that are covered under the ACC scheme include:
- Physical injury caused by accident (including intentional injuries such as assault)
- Injury caused by a work-related gradual process
- Treatment injury
- Mental injury caused by sexual abuse
- Work-related mental injury
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”).
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 ACC provide?
Costs covered under the ACC 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: “ACC entitlements: Treatment, compensation and other support”.
Am I covered by ACC if I’m injured while I’m overseas?
Yes, you’re covered by ACC if you’re injured while you’re overseas, but only if you or your partner or child have a permanent home here in New Zealand (“ordinarily resident” in New Zealand).
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. However, this timeframe can be extended in some cases if you were overseas for work reasons and intended to come back to live in New Zealand.
Are overseas visitors covered by ACC?
Yes. Visitors to New Zealand are covered by ACC for injuries that happen here, except when they’re boarding, on board, 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, such as a cruise ship.