The Difference Between the GCCRS and Earthquake Tribunal

This is an excerpt from some advice recently provided to a client regarding the differences between GCCRS and the Earthquake Tribunal.

“Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service (“GCCRS”)

The GCCRS is a non-judicial government body that offers a no-charge claims assistance service, facilitation and determination processes for negotiating claim settlements.  The GCCRS processes are voluntary for claimants and insurers.

The GCCRS facilitation process runs very much like mediation, with a panel member refereeing discussions between the parties or their engineers.  In the GCCRS, engineers can be engaged jointly or individually by the parties to provide advice.  Facilitated hearings do not result in binding decisions unless agreement is reached between the parties at the time.

The GCCRS determination process is slightly different in that the dispute is submitted to an independent, experienced decision-maker who makes a binding decision.

In the GCCRS, you are not “stuck with” an outcome unless agreement is reached at facilitation or the dispute goes to determination.  That said, if a binding decision is reached there is no right of appeal.

We can assist you with the GCCRS process as much or as little as you’d like.  For example, you may wish to have us assist with preparing your evidence or attend a facilitated hearing with you.

Earthquake Tribunal (“Tribunal”)

The Tribunal is an independent judicial body that offers a no-charge process for resolving claims.  Only claimants may apply to the Tribunal, though unlike the GCCRS insurers must engage with the Tribunal’s process.  Further, the Tribunal is inquisitorial, meaning it plays an active role in investigating and resolving the claim.  The GCCRS process is adversarial in that the dispute is refereed between the parties while encouraging them to reach a negotiated outcome.

The Tribunal can compel parties to produce evidence, and has a panel of engineers it can draw from to assist with engineering disputes.  The engineering panel is not limited to advising the Tribunal – rather, panel engineers can conduct site visits at the Tribunal’s direction, make findings and question the parties’ engineers.  Panel engineers can also discuss engineering disputes before the Tribunal and help narrow the issues in dispute.

The Tribunal is chaired by a retired District Court judge who is assisted by legal advisors, and its decision-making is based on law and insurance contract terms.  The Tribunal’s procedures resemble a combination of mediation and a Court process, are quite robust and are guided by the principles of fairness and natural justice.

Even if you initially opt to proceed with the GCCRS, you can still apply to the Tribunal (and GCCRS staff can help with your application).

Once a claim is submitted to the Tribunal, the Tribunal’s processes take over (though a claim can be withdrawn).  Tribunal decisions are binding, but can be appealed to the High Court on matters of fact and law.

As with the GCCRS process, we can be involved with Tribunal proceedings as much or as little as you’d like.  You may wish for us to attend case management conferences or teleconferences, or draft legal submissions for you when that time comes.”

For further advice, please contact one of our lawyers in our Insurance team at Saunders & Co.