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In October 2008, the ACC law was changed to allow workers, who are traumatised at work because he or she directly experiences an event – such as an earthquake or a robbery, to apply to ACC for compensation.

The law change came about because the Government recognised that mental trauma can cause incapacity. Parliament was convinced by the experience of a train driver who – on the Hutt line – had the misfortune to run over a person who was on the track. He was so traumatised he could not return to work.

The Christchurch earthquake was seriously traumatic for many workers. It occurred during the working day: the sight, sound and experience of the earthquake have led to trauma. Trauma would reasonably be experienced by any worker being trapped in a building, escaping from a damaged building, or experiencing the earthquake within a building. Transport operators may also have been affected. There will be so many different scenarios that it is impossible to list them here.

In order to obtain cover and entitlement, the person must suffer a clinically significant behavioural, cognitive or psychological dysfunction. In other words the person must suffer more than stress or worry. The person does not also have to suffer a physical injury.

The claim must be supported by a reputable medical diagnosis (for example,  post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and/or depression), and there must be clear evidence of the harm that resulted from the medical condition.
Entitlements to weekly compensation can be sought, as well as treatment such as counselling and/or medication. 

Once the condition has stabilised, lump sum compensation can be sought.
The claim is lodged by a treatment provider with ACC.

Those seeking more information should contact ACC or their treatment provider, or failing that their union or other advocate.

Christchurch earthquake victims: Payments for mental trauma

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