ROAD ACCIDENT FUND – WHO CAN CLAIM?
The Road Accident Fund (RAF) in South Africa exists to provide financial compensation to South Africans who have been injured in vehicle accidents on public roads. The RAF is primarily funded by a fuel levy.
ROAD ACCIDENT FUND – WHO MAY CLAIM?
In broad terms, if you are involved in a road accident and require medical attention, you are entitled to claim from the RAF. However, if you caused the accident or you are the only party involved in the collision, you are not eligible to claim. A dependant of a deceased person may also claim. Obviously, the deceased person must have died due to a vehicle accident on a public road.
ROAD ACCIDENT FUND – WHAT CAN I CLAIM FOR?
Victims can claim for the cost of medical treatment required due to a road accident on a public road. If the injuries were serious enough to prevent a person from working, a claim can also be lodged for loss of income. Even funeral expenses and loss of support from a breadwinner, if a family member died in the accident, can be claimed for. You cannot, however, claim for damage to your vehicle.
ROAD ACCIDENT FUND – WHAT IS THE TIME FRAME TO CLAIM?
Some people may remain in hospital for months, even years, after a serious accident. For this reason, the time frame for lodging a claim is quite generous. If the identity of the driver who caused the accident is known, claims must be lodged within three years of the date of the accident. In the case of a ‘hit and run’, where the identity of the driver is not known, the claim must to be lodged within two years of the accident.
I AM NOT A LAWYER – CAN I LODGE THE CLAIM MYSELF?
The quick answer to this question is Yes, a claim may be lodged directly with the RAF. It is not necessary to use a lawyer. However, a quick search on the internet will reveal many articles by attorneys discouraging people to claim directly from the RAF. Some of their arguments against direct claiming make sense, with the main argument being the RAF cannot play both Judge and Jury. A case is made that the RAF cannot represent the victim and at the same time decide on the validly of the claim and the amount to be paid out. Another argument against is that the RAF will not place the victim first and will not do everything in their power to ensure a claim is maximised.
Counter arguments are that lawyers are ‘ambulance chasers’ and are only in it for their cut of your money. So, some people may choose to submit the claim directly, in the hope of getting more in their pockets. This is where the grey area sets in. If the attorneys are correct, and the RAF does not really want to pay out the full claim if a suitably qualified entity is not chasing them, then the victim may have his / her claim rejected, or may have to face a reduced amount. This is akin to selling your house – do you use an agent or not? Do you use a lawyer or not? Do you want the peace of mind of a lawyer looking after you, even if you must cough up 25% of the claim as fees? Or do you do it alone and risk getting nothing?
Keep in mind that claims take very long to pay out. In a VERY recent article in the Pretoria News, the RAF stated that the average time to pay-out for direct claims were 912 days versus 1432 days if a lawyer handled the case. This is even more confusing – use a lawyer, have ‘peace of mind’, wait longer and pay a fee.
THE RAF SAYS – IT IS ALL IN THE PAST
The RAF admitted that direct claims in the past were not ideal. Claims were either prescribed or under-settled. No more, says the Fund’s Phumelela Dhlomo. Checks and balances were put in place to ensure a speedy and fair process, where victims will not be short-changed. Today apparently one in three claims are submitted directly to the RAF. So is this the way to go in future? Claim directly from the RAF? I can hear the armchair critics going “*sigh*, I do not trust them”. Fair enough, with a history of under-settlement and prescribing claims, the RAF has a long way to go to re-establish trust.
However, if you feel you want to submit directly and get the process over sooner, remember, you are legally entitled to dispute the outcome of a claim. Your choice – now you have the facts.