Does the legal profession have any interest in the legal rights of accident victims?

07 July 2020 - By Don Rennie


Since 1974 when the common law right of accident victims to sue to recover damages for personal injury was abolished, the legal profession has shown very little interest in ensuring that the statutory ACC scheme adequately replaces common law and former statutory rights of accident victims.
Lack of professional interest probably arises from the fact that lawyers find it difficult to make a viable income from handling ACC cases. Not only is the legislation complex and prolix but the jurisprudence is extensive and few lawyers are prepared to commit themselves to becoming proficient enough to advise accident victims.
It is made even more difficult with the current legal aid rules that mean a lawyer can barely recover overheads, let alone make an acceptable income from handling legally aided ACC clients. Any legal aid granted is only a loan and must be repaid if compensation is recovered or otherwise it remains a debt owing. The position is so bad that in Auckland – a city with a population in excess of 1.675 million – no lawyers will handle legally aided ACC cases.
ACC advocates are not legally qualified or registered but regularly advise accident victims by interpreting how the Act, regulations and the court decisions, apply to clients. This probably breaches the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and is in direct contrast to advocates provided under the Health and Disability Commissioners’ legislation who are specifically prohibited from giving legal advice.

For the full article please visit https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/practice-resources/practice-areas/acc/does-the-legal-profession-have-any-interest-in-the-legal-rights-of-accident-victims