The Road Accident Fund (RAF) is a government-run insurance scheme operating in terms of the Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996 (as amended).
It is an organ of State created in order to pay compensation to road accident victims injured or to the dependant of those killed as a result of the negligence of the driver or owner of a motor vehicle at any place within South Africa.
WHO CAN CLAIM?
- You can claim only if the accident was not all your fault. A dependant of a breadwinner can claim if the breadwinner was not entirely to blame for the accident.
- You can claim if you were a passenger in a car, taxi, bus, truck, bakkie or on a motorbike and suffered injuries in an accident.
- You cannot claim if you did not suffer any injuries in the accident.
- You may not be able to claim if the injuries suffered were not ‘serious’.
- If the deceased had no dependants, there may be no claim arising from his/her death.
DO YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY?
You can claim direct from the RAF, but
- claiming from the RAF is a complicated and technical process;
- medical reports (RAF 1 and RAF 4) need to be completed by doctors, and paid for;
- documents need to be obtained from the South African Police Service, and paid for;
- an affidavit explaining how the accident took place must be prepared and lodged with your claim;
- medical records need to be obtained from hospital and doctors, and paid for;
- you need to quantify your claim – that is state in your claim form what you are claiming for various heads of claim – ages such as pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, disfigurement, disability and shock (general damages), loss of income, loss of earning capacity, future medical costs and past expenses (special damages);
- to claim general damages for pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, disability, disfigurement and shock you need to lodge a serious injury assessment report (RAF 4) from a suitably qualified medical expert who has assessed your injury as ‘serious’ as provided for in the Act and Regulations.
An attorney specialising in personal injury claims has the knowledge and experience to assist you and to ensure that your claim is properly calculated and submitted to the RAF in accordance with the Act and Regulations. There are time limits that apply to your claim and if they are not complied with your claim will be unenforceable (prescribed).
Many attorneys specialising in personal injury cases will also incur and carry the costs necessary to prosecute your claim pending finalisation of the claim.
An attorney specialising in personal injury will have the knowledge and experience to advise you whether the amount offered by RAF to settle your claim is fair and reasonable in the circumstances of your particular case.
Can you claim direct from the RAF?
Yes you can. The RAF has an active outreach programme and employs information at its branch offices. It has also appointed representatives in all major government hospitals. While in hospital you may be approached by an agent of the RAF offering to assist you to make a claim direct.
You are not obliged to agree to claim direct from the RAF (a direct claim) or to appoint an attorney recommended to you by someone who has approached you in hospital or elsewhere. You have the right to appoint your own attorney. Check that an attorney is registered and in good standing with the relevant provincial law society.
Although the RAF will assist you by explaining how to claim and help you fill in a claim form, you will need to obtain and pay for all supporting documents required, including medical reports and records.
The RAF is the very body against whom you are claiming and it is their job to investigate and exclude all claims it considers that it is not obliged to pay.
Without advice from an independent attorney, you will have no way of knowing whether any settlement offered by the RAF is fair and/or whether the claim has been properly rejected. By the time you have to seek independent advice it may be too late.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.