Can I Claim if I was in a Car Accident – RAF?
Buying and maintaining a vehicle can oftentimes be an expensive endeavour, but something that is commonly overlooked is the exorbitant cost that can arise once you crash that vehicle. Ignoring the repair work (which can be pricey by itself), medical expenditures can leave even the most financially stable individuals with a much lighter purse. Luckily for South Africans, the Road Accident Fund has been set up to help cover some of these costs and ensure that a fender bender in the Checker’s parking lot doesn’t leave you filing for bankruptcy. But when exactly can you get a payout from the RAF? Can you do it yourself or do you need a lawyer? And how much can you expect to receive anyway? Can I Claim if I was in a Car Accident – RAF?
RAF claims can only be made in certain scenarios in which losses and/or expenditures relating to serious bodily injuries or death have occurred. In other words, you cannot claim from the RAF when your car has been damaged but you have not suffered from any sort of injury or when nobody has died.
Additionally, a crucial element involved in RAF claims is that of blame/responsibility for the accident. Simply put, for RAF claims to be successful, an individual will need to prove that they were not wholly responsible for the crash. Claimants will need to show they were not at fault or that they were only partly at fault.
When Can you Claim from the RAF?
- You were involved in an accident for which you are not solely responsible and you have suffered bodily injuries – Note that the amount of compensation that you will receive will be affected by your level of responsibility
- You caused an accident while driving someone else’s car but the fault lies with the owner – If, for example, the owner of the vehicle knew that the brakes were faulty and did not inform you, you would be able to make a claim
- You are a dependent of the deceased – Note that this only applies when the deceased was not wholly responsible for the accident
- You are a close relative of the deceased with funeral expenses to cover – Once again, this claim can only be made if the deceased was not wholly responsible for the accident
- You were a passenger in the vehicle when the accident took place – Again, you must prove that you were not wholly responsible for the incident
- You were a pedestrian injured by a negligently driven vehicle
There are also many instances in which a person involved in a car crash will not be able to make a claim with the RAF.
When can you Not Claim from the RAF?
- Nobody else was involved in the accident – If, for example, you drive off of the road and into a ditch due to your own negligence, you will not be able to make a RAF claim. That said, in certain scenarios, if the accident was caused by an external factor beyond your control (ie, if you lost control because of the poorly maintained roads) you may be able to make a claim.
- You did not suffer any injuries and nobody was killed – Once again, claims can only be made when they involve bodily injuries and deaths. You cannot make a claim on the basis of a damaged vehicle.
- Your injuries were ‘not serious’ – The RAF has a limited amount of funds to spare and, as such, very light injuries will not result in a payout.
- You took too long to submit a claim – You will have a set amount of time to make a RAF claim depending on the nature of the incident, if you do not make a claim before this due date, you will no longer be eligible for a payout.
How do I make a Claim for Property Damages?
As the RAF only deals with claims relating to bodily injuries and deaths, any property damages will need to be claimed from the guilty party themselves. In other words, if you get into a car accident (through no fault of your own) and your car is badly damaged, you will have to make a claim against the person who is responsible for the crash rather than against the RAF.
How Long does the RAF take to Pay Out?
Unfortunately, the RAF is known for taking an extremely long time to pay out to successful claimants. Each case is different but it is not usual for the review process to take many months. Often, the claimant will also have to take the RAF to court to ensure that they don’t just delay indefinitely. What’s worse is that, even after winning a case, the payment may not come until months later.
How does RAF pay Work?
RAF claims are considered individually, either by the RAF themselves, or by a judge if you end up taking them to court, and thus, the amount that you may receive will depend on the elements of your claim and whether or not it is successful. As mentioned, your level of blame for the accident also heavily impacts the payout. Rarely, the RAF will make a fair settlement offer before a trial is set.
Regardless of how the matter is settled, if successful, the amount you receive will relate to the nature of the claim. Individuals may claim for things like –
- Payment of relevant medical treatments
- Payment for loss of earnings
- Travel expenses related to medical treatment
- Loss of maintenance (by a dependent following the death of a breadwinner)
- Funeral Costs
It is important to note, however, that a 2008 RAF amendment limited the amount that can be paid out for loss of earnings each year.
How Long after an Accident can you Claim?
The time you have to make a claim with the RAF following an accident will depend on the nature of the accident itself. The relevant factors and their associated timeframes are as follows –
- Up to 3 years after the incident – When you know the identity of the driver/owner of the car
- Up to 2 years after the incident – When you do not know the identity of the drive/owner (hit-and-run cases)
- In cases involving minors – If you were a minor at the time of the incident you will have a 3-year period following your 18th birthday during which you may make a claim
- Court Proceedings – If you choose to take the RAF to court, a summons must be issued within 5 years of the incident
How Much do you Get from the Road Accident Fund?
As mentioned, any payout from the RAF will depend on multiple factors including the nature of the incident, the losses suffered, and the level of blame that rests upon the claimant. Of course, the RAF is unlikely to provide a requested payout without a fight and oftentimes a claimant will be offered a smaller amount to settle the dispute.
If the case proceeds to court, the payout will depend on the ruling of the judge. In some instances, they may order the RAF to pay the full amount for virtually all related costs, while other cases may see only limited payouts to certain groups.
Do you Need a Lawyer to Make a RAF Claim?
You may make an RAF claim without any legal assistance, however, the process can be extremely complicated and there is a mountain of necessary paperwork including things like medical documents, SAPS incident reports, explanatory affidavits, and more. For this reason, it is recommended that you enlist the services of a lawyer specialising in personal injury claims.
In Conclusion – Can I make an RAF Claim if I was in a Car Accident?
RAF claims can only be made in certain instances. The RAF exists primarily for damages relating to personal injury and death and does not deal with claims that relate to property damages, in other words, if your car is badly damaged in an accident but you were not injured and nobody was killed, you will have to make a claim with the guilty party themselves, rather than with the RAF.
Even in scenarios in which bodily injuries and/or deaths have occurred, the claimant will have to prove that they were not wholly responsible for the incident. You may not make an RAF claim if the accident was entirely your fault and the amount that you may claim for may be reduced when the incident is partly your fault.
When dealing with deaths, RAF claims may be made by a dependent when the deceased individual was a breadwinner or when funeral costs have to be covered. Again, these cases must prove that the deceased was not wholly responsible for the incident.
Sadly, RAF claims tend to be complicated, drawn-out endeavours that often require legal action to complete. Many claimants end up taking the RAF to court in order to receive their payout. The amount paid out will depend on the factors of the case and the entire process will usually take many months, if not years, to finish.
Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although our posts cite the constitution in many instances, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.
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