Legal Aid Versus Legal Insurance Cover

Whether it’s through our own fault or as a result of someone else’s negligence, an encounter with the law is inevitable for most of us. And while every case is different, it usually causes a lot of stress and anxiety and can be quite the financial burden as well.  

The fact is, the law is notoriously inaccessible in our country and most South Africans cannot afford the services of a top lawyer. With the unemployment rate just under 28%, it is easy to see why the law is unaffordable for many. This is where legal aid and legal cover come into play. We take a look at both and explain what the biggest differences are. 

What is Legal Aid?

Because our Constitution stipulates that access to justice is a right for all South Africans, it mandates that Legal Aid South Africa must help the poor with tax-funded legal assistance, and they determine whether or not someone qualifies for free legal assistance by using “The Means Test”, which essentially looks at what someone earns to ascertain if they will take on a case or not.  

Legal Aid for individuals and households.

If you are employed, you must earn less than R5,500 per month after tax has been deducted. 

If you live with other people for more than 4 nights per week, and these other people share in the cost of food and other costs, then Legal Aid will look at your total household income. They will only give legal aid to households that earn less than R6,000 per month. Again, Legal Aid will only look at the amount that the household receives after tax has been taken off. 

But while “legal aid” is a reasonably known term, not many South Africans are familiar with legal insurance cover, which, depending on the company you choose, comes with various benefits.  

Legal Insurance Cover in South Africa.

Many people take out various insurance policies- car, household etc.- to cover them in case anything that can put added financial strain on them happens. Unfortunately, legal insurance cover isn’t top of mind for most, and an unexpected run-in with the law can be devastating for many South Africans.   

In a nutshell, legal insurance cover is a specialised insurance product that covers the fees and expenses involved in legal disputes for a monthly premium. After signing up for a legal insurance policy, a client will be able to contact a lawyer for unlimited legal advice (telephonically or face-to-face) related to civil, family, labour, or criminal matters. Most policies also cover the costs of having a lawyer represent the client in court (litigation) or out of court (mediation).  

LAW FOR ALL’s legal insurance cover policies offer clients real value for money. Our monthly premiums won’t break the bank and range from R109- R239 per month, providing litigation cover of between R110 000 – R240 000 per year (depending on the policy, of course). What’s more, policies protect the whole family – spouses and children – giving added peace of mind. What’s more, policyholders receive access to a 24hr emergency line, unlimited legal advice, negotiation and legal assistance. Of course, LAW FOR ALL also represents clients should they need to go to court. 

For a comprehensive look at that ins and outs of LAW FOR ALL’s legal insurance cover benefits, take a look at Why Legal Cover is Essential. 

Don’t feel powerless!

South Africans should not feel powerless and excluded from the justice system. There are free and affordable options for legal representation, and it is incredibly important to know what your rights are and that someone can help you fight for them. Get the law on your side! View our affordable policies.





Legal Drinking Age in South Africa: Should it be 21?

The legal drinking age in South Africa could be changed from 18 years of age to 21. This comes after the Liquor Amendment Bill gained momentum in early 2018, and is now in front of Cabinet awaiting to be passed through Parliament.

The most recent statistics (2016) from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that South Africa is in the top 20 of the biggest drinking countries in the world, and the third biggest in Africa. Somewhat worryingly, the WHO report also showed that more than a quarter of the drinking population in South Africa are considered binge drinkers, consuming at least 60 grams or more of pure alcohol in one session within a 30-day period.

Naturally, this doesn’t just have consequences on the individuals consuming the alcohol. According to IOL, alcohol-related health and crime incidents reportedly cost the South African government billions of rand every year, with health costs alone estimated at 5% of total public health spending.

Not to mention, widespread alcohol abuse in many communities has led to several cases of domestic violence. Thus, the new law was initially met favourably, thanks to the thinking that further restrictions on the accessibility of alcohol will decrease booze-related crimes.

But, of course, the primary target of the new law is the youth of South Africa; however, some argue that raising the age limit to purchase alcohol will likely have no significant effect on alcohol abuse amongst teenagers, since the current limit of 18 isn’t much of a deterrent. According to the Southern Africa Alcohol Policy Alliance (SAAPA), 25% of young people binge-drink and 12% of under 13-year-olds said they had drunk alcohol in the past month.

Insiders have linked this rise in minors drinking liquor to the prevalence of alcohol advertising, particularly at sporting events. Thus, the Liquor Amendment Bill also calls for a ban on alcohol advertising , and it could result in alcohol advertising on radio and television being banned from 6am to 10pm. Researchers from Nedlac are convinced that the one-two punch of banning advertising and raising the legal drinking age will be effective, and estimate that it would reduce alcohol consumption 3.2%-7.4% among those aged 15 years and older.

Of course, this potential ban on alcohol marketing has the advertising and media industries in a panic. According to a report on a study for the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), restricting alcohol advertising in the time period mentioned above would result in a loss of revenue amounting to R400m for advertising agencies and R800m for the media, particularly television.

So it goes without saying that the proposed liquor law amendments are controversial, and only time will tell whether or not it will be effective. The exact date of when the new law will be implemented has yet to be determined.


How to Avoid Your Insurance Claim Getting Rejected

In life, we try to minimise risk as much as possible, and that often means taking out various insurance policies, whether it is life cover to ensure your loved ones are looked after, or vehicle insurance to make sure that there are measures in place to help you should you be involved in a road accident or fall victim to car theft, for instance. In short, we rely on an insurance claim to lessen financial and emotional strain.

And while having one or all of these policies in place should give you peace of mind, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get a pay-out should you submit a claim. Year after year, thousands of South African are left frustrated after their insurance claims are either partially or completely rejected.

We take a look at some of the main reasons why your insurance claim could be rejected, and how the law is on your side should you feel as though you are treated unjustly by an insurance company.

  1. Honesty is the best policy – be clear, concise in your insurance application form

When completing your insurance claim form, you must be as clear and honest as possible. Any details that might be inaccurate or facts that have been misrepresented could potentially lead to legal action against you for insurance fraud. It might be worth adding any affidavits or images that support your claim.

  1. Only insure assets that belong to you

Technically, you are not allowed to insure assets or belongings that you don’t own or use.  For example, many parents will insure their children’s vehicle under their own policies because it usually works out cheaper.

Most companies actually prefer it if the children have their own policies, especially when they are earning their own income and financially independent. So, while it might be somewhat of an administrative nightmare, it’s best to have separate the policies so that there aren’t unnecessary hurdles when it comes to submitting a claim. If your children aren’t financially independent and drive your vehicle, make sure you list them as nominated drivers.

  1. Drive responsibly and abide by the law

Be sure that your driver’s licence has expired and that anyone who drives your vehicle has a licence because should there be an accident, this could result in your claim being rejected because you are technically driving illegally.

Similarly, you must ensure your car is roadworthy- whether it is a worn tyre tread or faulty indicator, your claim could get vetoed if a mechanism or feature isn’t working the way it is meant to.  Of course, it goes without saying that driving under the influence is a no-go.

  1. Mitigate the risk -stay vigilant and be aware

Essentially, you want to avoid any kind of negligence and, and that includes leaving keys in your car or not activating your house alarm, for instance. It’s also wise to install a tracking device and obtain proof that you have one in case your car is stolen.

  1. Make sure your monthly premiums are up to date

If your payments are in arrears, you will forfeit any cover from your insurer and your insurance claim will be unsuccessful. However, if you are struggling to pay your premium, contact your insurer and see if there isn’t an alternative payment arrangement that will still keep your cover intact.

  1. You try to claim within the waiting period

Almost every insurance policy has a waiting period before any benefits kick in or claims can be made.  Needless to say, your insurance claim will be rejected if it falls within this timeframe.

  1. Read the fine print and identify any exclusions

Whether it is car or life insurance, every policy has certain exclusions (things they don’t cover) that can be found in the terms and conditions. For example, if you take out life insurance cover, it’s unlikely that you will be covered for pre-existing conditions.  Take the time to read the fine print and make sure you get the comprehensive cover you need.

Can the law help if my insurance claim is unfairly rejected?

Of course, if you feel as though you’ve take all the necessary steps and precautions and your insurance claim is rejected, you can turn to the law for assistance. You can approach the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance for assistance, but there are certain steps you should follow before doing so.

  • Be sure to raise your complaint with your insurance company first. It’s best to do this in writing so that you have a clear record of all the facts leading up to this point.
  • While it may be difficult to control your emotions, try to remain calm and friendly. It will help you communicate effectively.
  • Try to take up the issue with one of the insurance company’s Senior Officials.
  • Keep track of all communication and facts, and make copies of any correspondence.

If you are still unsuccessful, you can lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance. The Ombudsman functions as an impartial mediator or arbitrator without representing either the consumer or the insurance companies in South Africa. Good news:  filing this complaint won’t cost you a cent.

You can either complete the complaint form by hand and post or fax it or complete the complaint form online and post or fax it. Visit the website of the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance for more information.

Do note:  you usually only have 6 months after your claim has been repudiated to take the company to court and institute a civil claim.