When can I claim from the Road Accident Fund?
With around 1.35 million car accident deaths taking place around the world every year, driving is a far more deadly mode of travel than many people might think. Even when nobody is killed, many millions of individuals suffer debilitating injuries and have their lives permanently impacted following motor vehicle incidents. In South Africa, a special fund exists to compensate these victims and their families after such tragic events. But when do you qualify for such claims? Can anybody approach the RAF and how do you go about lodging a claim? When can I claim from the Road Accident Fund?
Generally speaking, you may lodge a claim with the Road Accident Fund (RAF) in the following circumstances –
- You suffered bodily injuries from the accident and you were not solely responsible for the accident (if the accident was partly your fault, you may still be able to claim from the RAF although the amount you receive may be reduced depending on your level of blame).
- You caused the accident while driving someone else’s vehicle but the fault was due to negligence on the part of the owner (in other words, if you borrow a car and the owner does not inform you that the brakes don’t work).
- You are a dependent of a person who was killed in the accident, ie, a child, spouse, etc. (note: this only applies if the deceased was not completely responsible for the incident).
- You are a close relative of the deceased and you have funeral expenses that must be covered (once again, the deceased must not be fully at fault).
- You were a passenger injured in the accident and you were not fully responsible for the accident.
- You were a pedestrian who was injured by a negligently driven vehicle.
As you will have noticed, the largest factor when making a claim is determining where the blame lies. Individuals who are injured or family members of those who are killed are not able to lodge claims if they were entirely at fault for the accident.
When can you Not Claim from the RAF?
As mentioned, if you are completely to blame for the accident you will not be able to make a claim. That said, there are some other situations in which you may be ineligible to claim from the RAF –
- There was no other person involved in the incident. If, for example, you crashed into a tree or drove off the road due to your own negligence, you would not be able to claim from the RAF (it should be noted, however, that you may have a claim if this type of accident was caused due to certain external factors such as poorly maintained roads).
- If you did not suffer any injuries from the incident.
- You waited too long after the incident before submitting your claim
What is the RAF?
Have you ever noticed how the price of petrol keeps going up but the taste doesn’t seem to improve? That’s thanks to the Road Accident Fund. The RAF is a fund designed to cover the financial burden of physical injuries and deaths that are caused by negligent driving.
Whenever you pay for fuel, a percentage of the cost goes into the RAF, afterwards, when people get into accidents that aren’t their fault, the RAF takes the place of the blameable party, thus, individuals who are injured in such accidents are able to claim from the RAF rather than from the actual person at fault, who may not be able to cover the expenses themselves.
Interestingly, under South African law, you are not allowed to sue the negligent driver themselves for damages related to bodily injuries and deaths and are instead forced to claim from the RAF.
How can I claim from the Road Accident Fund?
So let’s assume you’ve been involved in a car crash that wasn’t your fault. What’s the process for approaching the RAF?
There are many lawyers available who specialize in RAF claims and who can make the undertaking far less complicated. That said, if you wish to do things yourself, the procedure to follow looks something like this –
- Gather as much evidence as possible – To ensure that your claim is successful, try to garner as much documentation as possible with regard to the incident. This includes things like witness testimony, copies of medical documents and expenses, police reports, etc.
- Complete and submit the correct forms – The forms required will vary depending on the nature of your claim. These forms are available on the RAF website but must be submitted in physical format. They can be submitted either by post or at your local RAF regional office. Remember to make copies of all the forms you submit.
- RAF investigation – Once your claim has been registered the RAF will begin their investigation. They have 120 days to conduct said investigation during which they may request different types of documentation such as medical evaluations and consultations. If you’re very, very lucky, they will offer a settlement to you at some point during this period.
- Court Proceedings – If you do not receive a settlement offer within 120 days you may take the RAF to court. At this point, the RAF can either offer a settlement or appear in court to explain why they have not, or will not, agree to your claim. You are still able to complete this stage of the process by yourself but it is recommended that you hire a lawyer as the affair can become quite complex.
When Must an RAF Claim be Made?
As mentioned, there is a time limit when it comes to the claims process. Depending on the particulars you will have a fixed number of years to submit your claim, if you fail to do so, you will no longer be eligible for remuneration from the RAF.
The respective time limits are –
- 3 years after the accident – If you know who the driver or the owner of the car was.
- 2 years after the accident – If the driver or owner is not known.
- In the case of minors – If the victim was a minor at the time of the incident, they have a 3 year period to make a claim after their 18th birthday.
- Court proceedings – If you wish to take the RAF to court, a summons must be issued within 5 years of the incident.
Can you Claim Damaged Property from the RAF?
Unfortunately, you cannot claim from the RAF for anything related to property damage. RAF claims can only be made with regard to injury or death and related costs. Property damage claims must be taken up with either the negligent driver or their insurance company, these claims include things like –
- Car repairs
- Damaged items such as clothing, watches, etc.
- Damage to property such as border walls and fences
What Types of Claims can you Make from the RAF?
There are a wide range of issues that may result in legitimate RAF claims, the most common ones include, but are not limited to, –
- Payment for past and future medical treatments
- Payment for past and future loss of earnings
- Travel expenses related to obtaining medical treatment
- Loss of maintenance (by a dependant in the event of the death of a breadwinner)
- Funeral Costs
Keep in mind, that you will need to prove the costs and necessities of any medical expenditures which is why making copies of medical documents is so important.
Can Non-South Africans make RAF Claims?
Yes, they can. The RAF makes provisions for claims by any individual using South African roads, in other words, foreigners are able to make RAF claims if they are injured while in the country and if they are not solely responsible for the accident.
In Conclusion – When can I claim from the Road Accident Fund?
The Road Accident Fund is a tax-funded program designed to compensate individuals who have been injured on South African roads and who are not entirely at fault. The claims also extend to the family members of those killed in accidents if they were not solely to blame for the incident. These family members are able to make claims if they were dependents of the deceased or if such claims are required to cover funeral costs.
RAF claims cannot be made if the claimant was completely responsible for the accident. They may make a claim if they were only partly responsible although the number of remunerations they receive may be reduced depending on their level of blame.
RAF claims must be made within a fixed number of years from the time of the accident or the claimant will not be eligible for payment. Additionally, claims cannot be made for the damaged property but only for bodily injuries or death. Property damage claims must be made via the negligent party or their insurance company.
Foreigners are able to make RAF claims if they were injured in a car accident within the country and they were not entirely at fault.
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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