What is a loss of support claim & who is entitled to make one?
In the event of a loss of support claim, the claimant may be awarded monetary compensation if it can be shown that they were entirely financially reliant on the deceased.
The grief of losing a loved one in a car accident cannot be compensated for in monetary terms, but often the repercussions of the loss can have devastating long-term effects. If relatives or spouses financially dependent on the deceased, they may claim for loss of support due to the loss of their loved one.
In the event of a successful claim, the compensation will be awarded to the dependants based on their respective needs and prior financial support provided by the deceased.
According to South African law, compensation will be divided amongst the relatives or claimants. Two-thirds of the compensation will be paid to the primary caregiver or direct relative. One-third of the compensation may be claimed by the children or grandchildren of the deceased. In all claims of loss of support, the claimants must prove beyond reasonable doubt that they were dependants of the deceased.
In the event that the claimants still earn an income, they need to prove that they are unable to provide adequate care for themselves and their dependents as a result of the loss of their relative or spouse.
Who can claim for loss of support?
Any relative or spouse who was financially reliant on the deceased can apply for loss of support compensation. There are however limiting factors, for example, if a single mother is financially dependent on her boyfriend, but they are not married or officially joined in common-law, the mother may not be successful in her claim.
Similarly, if the claimant cannot prove the loss of income with tangible and convincing evidence, their case may be rejected. Relatives of the deceased who did not rely on the deceased for financial stability, or the aid provided was unnecessary, then the relative cannot make a claim. If your parent or grandparent has been killed you can lay a claim if they are provided you with financial aid, even in the event you are earning an income.
Who to contact?
If you want to lodge a claim of loss of support, you must direct your enquiries to the Road Accident Fund (RAF). The fund is a publicly accessible compensatory aid to those who have suffered damages as the result of an accident on the roads. It is also necessary to contact the deceased's employer, bank and any other entities that provided the deceased with contracts or services.
Additionally, it is wise to contact legal experts to examine your case and advise you on the best course of action. The RAF may require you to provide details of your own finances as well as all dependants, so ensure you have contacted all the relevant authorities in your before making a Road Accident Fund claim.
For example, if you are caring for an orphaned niece who is not directly related to the deceased but relied entirely on the financial support offered by the deceased, you will need to contact the Department of Home affairs to prove not only the validity of the relationship but also her dependency.
If you are caring for children and need to claim for loss of support, make sure you contact a social worker to provide official evidence in support of your case.
What happens when you launch a claim?
Upon the initiation of a loss of support claim, the matter will be referred to a court in which the case will be presented before a judge. You may represent yourself in the claim if you have the necessary skills and knowledge, but it is advised to consult with legal experts when laying the claim.
In order to prove your claim, you need to show the court that the deceased was supporting you financially and/or the bread-winner, further you must demonstrate that you are no longer able to provide adequate financial care for yourself and any dependants. When the case is ongoing, you may be required to attend the proceedings and furnish the court will any relevant documents required.
Having as many supporting documents for your claim will contribute to the possibility of success as well as decrease delays in the proceedings. During the trial, you may also be required to provide testimony in person and any witness in support of your case should be prepared to do the same.
How is your compensation calculated?
When a Judge rules in favour of your claim, the court will consider a variety of factors in determining fair compensation. There can be complex cases in which the Judge may consider the loss of income in relation to the lowered costs required if a child had perished too, in which case the compensation will be calculated accordingly. However, the claimant will still be eligible for compensation for the pain and suffering of losing the child too.
Loss of support claims can result in small compensation packages due to cuts in the fund as well as preventative fraud measures implemented. Usually the money will be compensated in monthly payouts, with an initial sum paid up front, however, if the Judge sees fit, she may allocate a large initial payout to cover the immediate damages incurred.
What not to do!
When launching a loss of support claim it is vital to ensure the integrity of your case. Always contact your legal advisor for the necessary professional advice. Many law firms specialise in road accident related cases and are familiar with the process. Do not try and embellish the claim or claim for monies not provided prior to the accident.
When the case is reviewed, the Judge will require official documentation of the deceased's income as well as proof of person. If you try and abuse the fund, you may be liable to prosecution for fraud. Always use a trusted legal expert, some lawyers will try and prolong the case or demand extravagant compensation in a bid to secure business.
If you rely on a relative or loved one for financial support, ensure that you have legal documentation proving your relation.