What is the Road Accident Fund (“RAF”)?
- The RAF is a fund that assists with compensating victims of a motor vehicle accident (“accident”) for certain damages suffered.
- The RAF is governed by the Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996 (“Act”), as read with the Road Accident Fund (Transitional Provisions) Act 15 of 2012.
- A percentage of the petrol and diesel a consumer purchases is used to finance the RAF.
What can be claimed from the RAF?
- A person has a right to claim compensation for damages from the RAF if s/he is a victim of an accident caused by the wrongful driving of another (“negligent driver”).
- The RAF compensates a victim of an accident for bodily injury, and in the event of death, it compensates the dependants of that victim for their loss.
What should a person do if s/he was involved in an accident?
- Record the following:
- date, time and place of the accident;
- registration numbers of the motor vehicles involved in the accident;
- full names and contact details of the negligent driver of the motor vehicle; and
- full names and contact details of any witnesses.
- Consult a doctor or go to the local hospital for a medical examination and report.
- Obtain a copy of the police report/s.
- Obtain a copy of the charge sheet from which it can clearly be determined that the victim was injured or killed as a result of the accident.
- Keep proof of expenses.
How does a person claim from the RAF?
- If a person (“claimant”) wants to claim from the RAF, s/he must lodge a claim on a prescribed claim form. The claim form provides basic information of the claimant; the vehicles and parties involved in the accident; the date and place of the accident; the amounts claimed; and a medical report.
- This claim form is accompanied by an affidavit setting out the following:
- full details of the accident;
- statements of any witnesses;
- police reports;
- hospital and medical records; and
- documents in support of amounts claimed.
- The drivers of the motor vehicles involved in the accident must provide details of the accident to the RAF on a prescribed accident report form.
- Once a claim is lodged, the RAF registers it on its claims system and starts with its investigations.
- The RAF determines:
- whether the claim is valid, for example, was there a road accident, does it comply with the law and was it lodged in time;
- what the merits of the case are, for example, the extent of fault, blame or negligence of the drivers of the motor vehicles and the claimant respectively; and
- the claim amount the claimant is entitled to.
- If a claim is incomplete, the RAF will request additional information and supporting documentation from the claimant to help assess the matter better.
- If the claim arose after the 31 July 2008 and general damages are claimed, a Serious Injury Assessment Report must be submitted to the RAF, confirming that the injury sustained is serious in terms of the Act.
What type of damages can be claimed?
- A person that suffers bodily injury or death may claim damages for:
- past and future income and earning capacity;
- past and future traveling expenses to get medical treatment;
- medical and hospital costs;
- the cost of employing an assistant and/or a nurse as a result of an injury; and
- general damages, for example, an amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement and loss of amenities of life.
- Examples of damage that can be claimed as a result of death are:
- loss of earnings and support; and
- funeral costs.
How soon after the accident does a person need to lodge a claim with the RAF?
- A claim must be lodged by the claimant within three years from the date of the accident or from the date on which the claim arose.
- This does not apply to a claim by a child under the age of 18 years old. Once a child turns 18 years old, s/he has three years to lodge a claim with the RAF.
- In a hit and run accident, a claim must be lodged by the claimant within two years from the date of the accident.
What happens with claims that arose on or after 1 August 2008?
- On 1 August 2008, the Act was amended and some of the consequences include:
- A claim for general damages is limited to compensation for a serious injury only, which is defined as 30% bodily impairment, serious long-term impairment, permanent disfigurement or long term mental disorder.
- If there is a serious injury, the claimant must be assessed by a medical practitioner.
- Any claim for loss of income or support is limited to a maximum amount that is determined from time to time.
- A person may not sue the negligent driver for the portion of damages that the RAF does not compensate.
What happens to a claim that arose before 1 August 2008 and is still on-going?
- Any claim is subject to the amended Act, unless the claimant chose in writing, before 12 February 2014, that the claim remains under the old Act.
Glossary of terms:
ACCIDENT REPORT: an official document containing all the details of the accident.
NEGLIGENT: the failure to take reasonable care, for example, recklessness.
WITNESS: a person who sees or hears something relating to the accident.
WRONGFUL: includes the intention to cause damage or negligence that caused damage.