To RAF or not to RAF?

Phil Evans, Somerset West

The Department of Transport is keen to replace the Road Accident Fund (RAF) with the Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS), a reconfiguration of its third-party insurance system with a couple of significant changes, one of which relates to your published article (“RAF: as easy as 1, 2, 3”, Bolander, September 19), that claims via third parties (ie attorneys) will no longer be allowed.

Claimants will have to claim directly and personally, entrusting the process to RABS civil servants.

A hang-over from the pre-1994 government is the persisting perception of the South African civil service as “The Authorities”…never to be challenged, questioned nor called to account.

Few of your readers will have not experienced an engagement with South African civil servants (how many have applied for an unabridged birth certificate or firearm licence renewal?).

The machinations of a civil service run amok are currently being exposed by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Your correspondent was honest enough to say that the administrative claims process can take some time.

It certainly can…in my case over a year.

Your correspondent writes “Claiming with (sic) the RAF is like any other insurance claim…”

Not so. He fails to mention that the RAF has capped the loss of income compensation to a derisory amount. Commercial insurers would be obliged to honour any claim according to the actuarial assessment. When my settlement was finally offered after over a year of compromise and systematic whittling down of the amount claimed, and which I reluctantly accepted, the RAF arbitrarily stated that payment period is 180 days. Securing a court date on which to challenge the settlement offered involves a wait of some two years.

The RAF, noble though its mission statement is, is failing to address the enormity of its mandate: “The RAF is responsible for providing appropriate cover to all road users within the borders of South Africa; rehabilitating and compensating persons injured as a result of motor vehicles in a timely and caring manner; and actively promoting the safe use of all South African roads.”

The volume of claimants and the costs of running the fund have consistently kept the RAF in a precarious financial state.

Thus a cost-saving feature of the reconfigured RABS is the proviso that no lump-sum pay-outs would be made; rather, claimants would receive a monthly compensatory payment.

Perhaps the solution to the RAF’s financial problems may lie in a return of common law to the act of Parliament that controls the RAF.

By this I am referring to Section 21 of the Road Accident Fund Act (1996). viz

(1) No claim for compensation in respect of loss or damage resulting from bodily injury to or the death of any person caused by or arising from the driving of a motor vehicle shall lie:

(a) against the owner or driver of a motor vehicle; or

(b) against the employer of the driver

While insurance is not mandatory for South African motorists, many are, under the terms of their motor vehicle finance facilities, obliged to hold comprehensive (including third party) insurance.

If victims of road accidents, where the culpability of perpetrators is proven, could claim compensation from the perpetrator and his/her insurer, the RAF would be absolved of the responsibility it currently carries.

The fund could then be mobilised as last resort in cases where no insurance is held.

You might have readers who either have experience of RAF claims or who might be better qualified than me to comment.