The specialist role of the South African Road Accident Fund (RAF)
If you have been involved in a road accident you may be eligible to claim monetary compensation from the RAF.
The RAF is a publicly accessible fund set up to provide monetary compensation to those who have suffered injuries as a result of an accident on public roads. The RAF could payout monetary compensation in an amount equal to the damages incurred, including medical, legal and loss of income costs.
However, in August 2008, the RAF made major changes to their compensation packages. In a bid to prevent corruption and fraud, the RAF whittled their payout packages to under R50 000. In lieu of this, claiming from the RAF is only practical in cases of serious injury.
The RAF most commonly compensates claimants in amounts equal to previous payouts in similar cases. There are exceptions in which the RAF may compensate the claimant in amounts greater than previously recorded, but these cases have become increasingly rare.
The RAF will consider the seriousness of the injuries incurred, the pain and suffering caused as well as the prolonged effects of the accident when compensating a claimant.
In order for a claimant to ensure a satisfactory result, it is wise to consult legal experts, but the prevalence of meagre payouts means it is difficult to cover the necessary costs, resulting in financially impractical pursuits.
Are you eligible to make a claim?
Any person involved in a road accident that was not their sole doing may apply for compensation from the RAF, this includes claiming on behalf of the deceased.
The RAF does not compensate individuals who are the primary cause of the accident or who are the sole party involved in an accident i.e. someone who drives off a bridge due to their own negligence, however, if the cause was due to another's negligence, the claim can be launched. The RAF compensates an individual in terms of “pain and suffering” caused. This means that if you incur any personal damages of a medical nature and/or prolonged damages to livelihood as a result of the medical injuries, they may claim from the RAF.
For example, if you have been involved in an accident on the road and need medical attention, you may apply for compensation for the costs of the medical treatment. Similarly, if the injuries are serious enough to prohibit you from earning an income, you may claim compensation for loss of future income.
It is important to note that in cases of loss of income, the RAF will compensate an individual based on the severity of the injuries and the effect on their life. Someone who relies on peak physical condition to earn an income, like a professional sportsman, may be compensated in a greater sum in the event of physical injury than someone who works in a less physically demanding profession, say a bank teller.
However, if the accident has occurred after August 2008, the compensation package may not equal the costs incurred, and so it is vital to consult with a legal expert when assessing the viability of a claim.
Likewise, if the claimant is unable to furnish all the necessary details and/or is unable to prove the validity of the claim, the RAF may rule against compensation.
In cases of claims on behalf of the deceased, the RAF frequently only compensates the costs of the funeral, in exceptional cases, the RAF may compensate a relative for loss of income if the deceased was the sole provider.
In these cases, the claimant needs to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they have incurred damages serious enough to warrant compensation.
Bare in mind that accidents are rarely simple affairs with obvious causal links, each party may present a different recollection of events or the authorities may rule that the accident occurred in an order of events not agreed upon by the parties involved.
How to make a RAF claim?
The first step in claiming from the RAF is to gather all the necessary documents.
Without all the relevant documents your claim’s probability of success will decrease. The documents required to launch a claim with the RAF are; the police report and/or case number of the accident, all your relevant personal details as well as those of any other person involved in the accident, all medical documents supporting the claim of injuries incurred, any motivating testimony from medical and/or legal experts as well as witness testimony, any relevant information pertaining to the accident such as damages to vehicle/s and/or surrounding structures and most importantly, the official RAF forms required.
Once you have completed all the necessary forms and accompanying documents, you must submit the documents in hard-copy, faxed documents require the originals to be furnished and emailed documents are not accepted. Ensure that all the documents are filled in correctly and make copies of all the paperwork, in the event of an administration error, having copies of the documents will hasten the process.
Once the claim is processed, the legal proceedings begin and the claimants evidence is considered by the RAF. The RAF website can be accessed via www.RAF.co.za and the necessary forms are available for download in PDF format, alternatively ,the forms can be collected from the RAF. Including the official RAF forms, you will need to have certified copies of your ID and proof of residential address.
Depending on the nature of the claim, additional documents may be required in order to prove the claim. Any and all relevant documents and testimony should be included in your claim as the validity of your claim depends on the evidence supporting it. Make note of the different set of forms relating to accidents before and after August 2008 and don't hesitate to contact the RAF and legal experts.
As soon as your claim is processed, the legal proceedings begin. You may be required to testify in person as well as having motivators testify on your behalf. Usually your legal representative will conduct the majority of the administration and presentation of evidence, however ,you must be prepared to appear in person if need be.
Depending on the success of your claim, the RAF will award you compensation after the judgement has been passed and any appeals process has been completed. Although the process is largely handled exclusively by the RAF and those representing you, you must be willing to oblige with the RAF on any matter pertaining to your claim.
As with any legal process, the accuracy and integrity of any evidence pertaining to your claim is paramount. Contradicting or weak evidence increases the chance of a failed claim. It is also ill advised to seek excessive or fraudulent amounts of compensation as the RAF is striving to abolish abusive use of the fund.
If you are involved in a road accident while driving a motor vehicle, the RAF will consider all the possible causal factors of the accident, including roadworthiness of the vehicle and licensing status. Ensure your motor vehicle is roadworthy and your license valid, although the absence of these may still result in compensation, the strength of the case may be compromised.
It is best to seek legal advise before launching a claim, you may feel that your injuries warrant compensation but your claim may be dismissed for a number of reasons that you may have not considered.
At the close of play
The RAF provides assistance to those who are in need of monetary compensation after incurring injuries as a result of a road accident, but this does not mean that you will receive a sum worthy of retirement. Due to the continuous fraudulent claims received by the RAF, the fund has been forced to restrict the compensation provided.
If you have been severely affected by a road accident that was not your doing, then your claim may be awarded adequate compensation
The compensation provided by the RAF is awarded in light of all relevant factors presented in the claim and how the case is argued.