Royal Commission of Inquiry: Compensation for Personal Injury in New Zealand

Publication Date01 Sep 1968
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1968.tb01210.x
AuthorD. L. Mathieson
REPORTS
OF
COMMITTEES
ROYAL
COMMISSION
OF
INQUIRY
:
COMPENSATION
FOR
PERSONAL
INJURY
IN
NEW
ZEALAND
IN September
1966,
a Royal Commission was set up in New Zealand
to inquire into the law relating to compensation and claims for
damages for incapacity
or
death arising out of accidents (including
diseases) suffered by persons
in
employment.
Some may therefore
be surprised by the title of the Report which the Royal Commis-
sion, arguably going beyond its terms of reference,’ produced in
December
1967.
The explanation
is
a simple one. The three-man
Commission, chaired by Woodhouse
J.,
reached the conclusion that
it was
impossible to resolve the problems
of
industrial injuries
in isolation.” Far from merely tinkering with the employee’s right
of action at common law,
or
toying with absolute liability,
or
recom-
mending minor improvements to the Workers’ Compensation Act
1956,
the Royal Commission boldly recommends a comprehensive
social insurance scheme providing
‘‘
immediate compensation with-
out proof of fault
for
evcry injured person, regardless of his
or
her
fault, and whether the accident occurred in the factory, on the high-
way,
or
in the home.” The negligence action for personal injuries
should be abolished, and the
1956
Act repealed.
Plainly,
so
radical a solution
of
the problem
of
adequately com-
pensating the injured demands a careful evaluation not only in the
land of its origin but in other common law countries. Whether
Parliament will give effect to the scheme in New Zealand is very
doubtful. The Government has been non-committal; the Law
Society seems likely to be a vigorous opponent; the unions and
the insurance companies are violently opposed; and no organised
group is championing it. In default of better arguments, its oppon-
ents
will
ask the question:
who wants it?”
If
this
is
a fair
assessment
of
the state of public opinion,
it
is important that the
Report should receive as much unbiased discussion as possible.
The Commission would have been prepared to see the various
categories of injury tackled separately, first industrial injuries, then
those caused in road accidents, and then, at some future date, all
others, had not a comprehensive scheme seemed practical. But
we are assured in the Report that a scheme compensating injuries,
at whatever time of the day they may occur, and whatever their
cause,
is
practical.
The common law remedy for negligence is condemned on several
counts. First, the adversary system is said to hinder the rehabili-
1
Should the
claum
’‘
awociated matters,!hat the Commission may deem to he
have been rmstrued
efpvdern
generis
appears
four
relevant
to
the
object8
of
the inquiry
with the earlier clauses,
in
which the phrase
‘‘
in
employment
times?
544

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