What support can I get?

Independence allowance

If you are impaired as a result of an injury that occurred before 1 April 2002, you may be eligible for an independence allowance.

What help can I get?

We’ll check that your:

  • claim has been accepted for cover by ACC
  • injury occurred before the 1 April 2002.

Independence allowance payments are in addition to any other support you may receive from ACC.

Special cases

There are some special rules that apply if your injury is one of the following. In these cases, the date of injury is usually considered to be the date that you first sought treatment or the date that you were first unable to work. Even though this date is after 1 April 2002 you may be eligible for an independence allowance.

If the injury is a:

  • Treatment injury – the date of the treatment that caused the injury is before 1 April 2002
  • Sensitive claim (physical and/or mental injury arising from sexual abuse or assault) – the date that the abuse or assault last occurred is before 1 April 2002
  • Work-related gradual process, disease or infection (WRGPDI) – in most cases, the last date that you performed the task that caused the injury or that you worked in the risky work environment is before 1 April 2002.

If you have a WRGPDI claim accepted for cover and:

  • it was lodged on or after 1 August 2008
  • the date that you first sought treatment or the date that you were first unable to work was after 1 April 2002.

You may be eligible to choose a lump sum or independence allowance. Contact ACC Claims for more information.

What if I am injured after 1 April 2002?

If you are permanently impaired as a result of an injury that occurred after

1 April 2002, see Lump sum payment.

What does ‘impairment’ mean?

Impairment means

  • the loss of a body part, ie amputation of a finger
  • loss of function in a body part, ie loss of movement in fingers.

Impairment is not the same as disability. A disability is an activity that cannot be performed because of an impairment – in other words, a disability results from an impairment.

For example, a bank manager and a concert violinist have a similar injury – the loss of the end of their middle finger. Their level of impairment will be the same (the loss of the end of their finger). The level of disability will be significantly different as the bank manager will be able to return to work but the concert violinist can no longer play well enough to stay in the same job.

What do I need to know?

When can I be assessed?

Applications for independence allowance are usually made after treatment and recovery is complete and it appears there is likely to be an ongoing impairment.

An assessment for an independence allowance is commenced when your doctor provides a certificate to ACC. The assessment is fully funded by us.

How do I get assessed and what happens?

If you are eligible to be assessed for independence allowance we’ll refer you to an assessor who will:

  • contact you to arrange an appointment
  • determine your level of impairment using the American Medical Association’s Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment fourth edition, in conjunction with the ACC User Handbook to AMA4 (PDF 3.8M)
  • send the results to ACC.

Your level of impairment must be 10% or more to be eligible for an independence allowance.

Examples of impairment levels:

  • 0 - 5% impairment, eg common lower back injury – lifting/bending, would not be eligible for an entitlement
  • 10% impairment, eg severe damage to the ligaments of the knee, would provide an entitlement
  • 32% impairment, eg amputation of a leg below the knee, would provide an entitlement
  • 80% or more impairment, eg paraplegia, would provide the maximum entitlement.

Note:

  • If you sustain more than one injury the impairments will be combined using a mathematical formula that ensures that compensation for multiple injuries does not exceed the maximum payable
  • You cannot receive a lump sum payment and independence allowance for the same injury.

How much will I receive?

Your level of impairment needs to be assessed at 10% or more to receive a payment.

  • The amount of independence allowance payable is based on the percentage of your assessed impairment
  • The amount is specified by legislation
  • Independence allowance increases each year by the relevant indexation amount
  • Independence allowance is paid quarterly (13 weekly).

If you have been paid a lump sum for permanent loss or impairment of bodily function before 1 July 1992:

  • the amount of the old lump sum paid is converted to a percentage
  • the percentage is deducted from the assessed whole person impairment (WPI) percentage
  • the independence allowance entitlement is based on the difference.

You may also be eligible for a single payment option (SPO) which allows you to receive independence allowance for a five year period in a single payment.

Contact us for an application.

Note:
If you are in receipt of payments from WINZs you’ll need to discuss with them if the independence allowance payments have any effect on the entitlements you receive.

When can I be reassessed?

If your impairment has changed, or you have a further injury causing you impairment, you can apply to be reassessed at any time after your initial assessment. However, you can’t have more than one reassessment in a 12 month period.

How to apply for independence allowance and/or lump sum compensation?

  1. Contact us for a copy of the application pack. This contains an application form, and all other material you’ll need to make your claim. You’ll also receive instructions about how to complete the application form with your doctor.
  2. Complete the application form with your doctor. Your doctor must confirm that your injury has a likely permanent impairment.
  3. Return the completed form and medical certificates to ACC, along with a copy of all relevant medical records.

Can I apply if I’m living overseas?

Yes, however you need to be aware of the following:

  • independence allowances are paid in New Zealand dollars
  • your application form and medical certificates, completed with your overseas doctor, must be in English
  • we require details from your overseas doctor of their registration as a medical practitioner, medical qualifications and contact details
  • we’ll arrange for your impairment to be assessed by an assessor in New Zealand using the medical information provided, however the assessor may also require the assistance of your overseas doctor
  • in some cases we’ll require you to return to New Zealand for an assessment
  • ACC is not required to meet any costs incurred by you while you are overseas, including your doctors’ consultations, or travelling to New Zealand for an assessment, if required.

How long will the process take and how will I be kept informed?

We aim to let you know if you’re eligible to be assessed within a week of receiving your application. This will be in writing and we’ll phone you to answer any questions you may have.

If you’re eligible to be assessed, it can take up to four months from receipt of your application to the time you receive a decision. We’ll keep in touch with you with regular updates.

If you’re eligible for a payment we’ll phone you and send you a letter informing you of our decision. The payment will be paid into your bank account. Independence allowance payments are not taxed.

If you’re not eligible to be assessed or not eligible for an independence allowance payment after you have attend an assessment, we’ll contact you via telephone and then send you a letter informing you of our decision.

What happens if I’m unhappy about the results of my decision or assessment?

Firstly, talk to your ACC Client Services staff member as they’ll be happy to answer any questions or work with you to resolve your concerns.

You also have the right for the decision to be independently reviewed. For reviews, you need to apply within three months of our decision, unless factors outside your control stopped you from applying in time.

Important:
The help you’ll get depends on your individual circumstances. Contact us if you want to know other ways in which we can help.

Can independence allowance be applied for or paid when a person is deceased?

To be eligible for independence allowance a client doesn’t have to be alive at the time of the assessment.

A deceased client’s impairment can be assessed if all of the following criteria are met:

  • the client’s claim had been lodged with ACC before death
  • the client’s estate requests an assessment or reassessment within three years of the client’s death
  • medical evidence shows that the injury was likely to have resulted in impairment
  • the assessment results in an impairment greater than 10% for the covered injuries.

A client’s entitlement to independence allowance ceases on the date of their death, however they are entitled to the full quarterly payment in which they pass away.

What do I need to do to get help?

To apply for an independence allowance:

  1. Contact us for a copy of the application pack. This will contain an application form, medical certificates and instructions from ACC about how to complete these.
  2. Complete the medical certificates with your doctor. Your doctor must confirm that you have an impairment from your injury.
  3. Return the completed application form and medical certificates to us, along with a copy of relevant medical records.

How am I eligible?

Your eligibility for an independence allowance depends on:

  • the date of your injury. For injuries that occurred after 1 April 2002 see Lump sum payment
  • any independence allowance or old lump sum payments you have received from ACC in the past, relating to the same injury
  • the level of your impairment, which is determined using the ACC user handbook to AMA4 (PDF3.8M).

Important:
The help you’ll get depends on your individual circumstances. Contact us to confirm if you are eligible, or to identify other ways in which we can help.

Related legislation

Accident Compensation (AC) Act 2001

Accident Insurance Act 1998

Updated: 28 April 2015

Reviewed: 24 April 2015