South Africa has one of the world’s poorest road safety records, in fact, the country’s roads are among the most dangerous in the world. The statistics are nothing short of alarming. Roughly 1 million road accidents are reported every year. This is according to a report by the World Health Organisation, which estimates a fatality rate of 31.9 deaths per 100 000 people, while the global average is only 18 deaths per 100 000 people.
What is the Road Accident Fund (RAF)?
Tragically, many road accidents are fatal or result in serious injuries. To protect South Africans (and foreigners visiting), the Road Accident Fund (RAF) provides compulsory cover to road users and victims are able to lodge a claim for compensation. The cover extends to anyone who causes an accident (in the form of indemnity insurance) and victims and their dependents (personal injury and death insurance)
Unfortunately, the RAF has been facing financial troubles for years and hundreds of thousands of claims are still unpaid. This is despite annual increases in fuel levies by the Finance Minister. South African road users pay a fuel levy of around R2/litre (2018/2019) to sustain the fund. Parliament is also considering a controversial law, better known as the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill which aims to replace the RAF.
Who is eligible to claim from the Road Accident Fund (RAF)?
Due to financial pressures, the law that regulates the RAF (the Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996) was changed (by the Amendment Act 19 of 2005) to make the fund more sustainable. The new regulations limit who can claim and what and how much the can claim for.
The RAF covers claims for drivers, passengers and pedestrians who are involved in motor vehicle accidents. The driver of vehicle can lodge a claim when another driver contributed to the accident or an unidentified driver and vehicle caused the accident.
Other persons who can claim include:
- Dependents of a deceased victim;
- A parent or legal guardian of a minor child (a child under 18 years of age must be assisted by a grown up).
What exactly can you claim from the Road Accident Fund (RAF)?
After considering whether a person is eligible to claim from the RAF, there are specific guidelines to follow about what type of compensation can be claimed.
- General Damages: for pain, suffering and loss of amenities of life as a result of an accident.
- Hospital and Medical Expenses: the medical costs incurred as well as future medical expenses as determined by medical practitioner.
- Loss of Earnings: for past and future loss of income as a result of injuries that make it impossible to continue employment. This type of claim is capped at R191 773 annually.
- Funeral Costs:
- Loss of Financial Support: dependents can claim for loss of financial care by a deceased breadwinner. This type of claim is capped at R191 773 annually per breadwinner.
Do note: Damages to vehicles cannot be claimed from the RAF, and a claim for damages must be made against the other driver or claimed from insurance.
What injuries qualify for claims?
Unfortunately, not all types of injuries can be claimed for from the RAF, only serious injuries will qualify. The “seriousness” of an injury can only be determined by a medical practitioner who must assesses a claimant.
Injuries will be assessed for:
- Whole Person Impairment: permanent impairment of any body part, system or function to a degree that it lastingly impairs someone as a whole person. If an injury caused 30% or more impairment of the entire body, it will be considered a “serious injury”.
- Permanent Disability: serious long-term impairment or loss of bodily function, permanent serious disfigurement, severe long-term mental or severe long term behavioural disturbance or disorder, or loss of a foetus.
How soon must a claim be submitted?
There are strict time frames in which a claim must be submitted with the RAF.
- Details of Other Driver/Vehicle Known: If the name of the other driver or the owner of the vehicle is known, the claim with all the necessary documents must be filed with the RAF within 3 years of the accident.
- Details of Other Driver/Vehicle Unknown: If the driver or owner of the vehicle aren’t known, then a claim must be submitted within 2 years of the accident.
- Victim is a Minor (under 18 years of age): If the victim of a road accident is a minor, they are allowed to submit a claim when they become of age. They have a 3-year period in which to do so after their 18th birthday.
- Legal Claims in Court: Summons must be served in the High Court within 5 years of the accident.
How to submit a claim to the RAF.
The RAF has over the years simplified its claim process, but it remains time consuming and can take years to finalise.
Step 1: Gather all the necessary and relevant documents and evidence to substantiate your claim, including:
- RAF Claim Forms;
- Police report, sketch plan and case number;
- Personal details;
- Details of other people involved in the accident;
- Copies of hospital records and other medical documents relating to injuries;
- Proof of medical expenses;
- Proof of earnings and loss of income (e.g. salary slips)
- Motivating statements by medical and legal experts;
- Proof of damage to vehicles and nearby structures.
- Witness Statements;
- Proof of marriage (if claim by spouse).
Step 2: Complete and submit the required RAF Claim Forms
- Visit the RAF’s website to download the required claim forms. Claimants need to complete prescribed statutory Claims Form RAF 1, which details basic information on the claimant, the vehicles and drivers involved in the accident, the date and place of accident and the amounts claimed.
- The drivers involved in the accident must provide details of the incident on an Accident Report Form RAF 3.
- If a claim is submitted for general damages, a Serious Injury Assessment Report RAF 4 must also be submitted to confirm that the injuries are serious.
- Claims can unfortunately not be submitted via email. Hard copies must be sent to the RAF. The documents can be faxed, but the originals must still be provided
- It’s important to ensure that all forms are filled in correctly, and to keep copies of all the documents submitted to the RAF.
- The RAF will make contact if any documents are missing, but it’s best to send all the required information to avoid unnecessary delays.
STEP 3: The RAF will investigate the Claim
- Once the RAF receives the forms and supporting documents, it will register a claim on its system and conduct investigations, it has 120 days in which to do so.
- The RAF may require additional documents or information and require a claimant to visit a medical practitioner of their choice to assess the extent of the injuries sustained in the accident.
- Essentially, the RAF will determine whether the claim is valid and if there are merits to the case. It will also determine the amount of damages and hopefully present a settlement offer.
Step 4: Serving Summons & Going to Court
- If a settlement offer isn’t made after 120 days, the case may be taken to court. The RAF will either have to make a settlement proposal or give valid reasons the court why it isn’t liable to pay any damages.
- While it isn’t absolutely necessary for a lawyer to get involved until this stage, it’s a good idea to consider getting legal assistance as the High Court’s processes are complicated and expert witnesses (such as medical experts) will be required to testify.
- It is still possible to negotiate with the RAF to try and settle out of court. If settlement isn’t possible, the claim will go to trial and the court will finalise the claim.
Do you need a lawyer to assist with an RAF claim?
The RAF encourages the public to submit claims directly without the help of an attorney. Technically speaking, claimants do not need a lawyer’s assistance to claim from the RAF and the reality is that legal costs can be expensive. But, on the other hand it can be costlier and time-consuming.
Claims can get complicated and RAF representatives aren’t always clued up on medical issues or the law. Unfortunately, the RAF isn’t always on the ball, and many claimants have lost out on compensation as their claims have prescribed (or become legally invalid) in the hands of the RAF.
As mentioned, the RAF faces financial troubles, and it could offer and low settlement amount or unfairly reject a claim. A lawyer can ensure that fair compensation is paid and that justice is served.
Most personal injury lawyers assist with RAF matters on a contingency basis. That means the attorney will assess the matter, and will only take on the matter if there is reasonable chance of success. Legal costs won’t be payable, unless the claim is successful, and the lawyer will then only take a maximum of 25% of the compensation amount awarded as payment.
We’ve got your back!
Our legal advisors are always on hand to lend a caring ear and provide legal advice. While LAW FOR ALL doesn’t directly deal with RAF claims and cases, we can refer clients to a trusted RAF expert Panel Attorney, who will assist on a contingency basis.
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