New RAF amendment bill ‘will offer less compensation for victims’
Who is it really helping? Civil society groups are questioning the motives of the new amendments, given the RAF’s past financial instability.
These proposed changes have raised significant concerns, particularly regarding the potential impact on compensation for road accident victims.
Kirstie Haslam, a partner at DSC Attorneys, has been vocal about the potential consequences of these amendments.
RABS vs RAF amendment
She explained that prior to this, a Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) bill had been proposed with an entirely new Act and scheme.
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But, in late 2020 after extensive public consultation and taxpayer expense, the RABS was rejected as South Africans felt it was bordering on injustice.
Haslam expresses her concern the amendments share alarming similarities with the RABS Bill, stating that the RAF might be trying to get away with shirking responsibility in a way that they couldn’t do with the RABS.
“Additionally, both bills shift the focus of the RAF from being a statutory insurer to providing social benefits, despite road users continuing to pay fuel levies,” she said.
She said that it seems as if the proposed changes aim to limit the RAF’s liability, expand control over the Board and CEO, impose stricter information submission requirements, and restrict access to the courts by introducing mandatory pre-litigation adjudication procedures for complaints.
More than two years
Haslam highlighted these changes come after more than two years of work on the bill, following the rejection of the RABS bill.
She believes various civic society interest groups are likely to oppose the bill’s introduction, seeking an audience with the Portfolio Committee to present their concerns.
One significant proposal is the replacement of compensation with structured benefits, which Haslam said will further limit the RAF’s liability to accident victims.
“Not only will the extent (amount) of such benefits be limited but also the circumstances under which (and the duration for which) they could be claimable.”
The proposed amendments, affecting claimants the most, include:
- Limiting benefits to accidents on public roads, excluding injuries from accidents on private roads, parking areas, sports fields, and more.
- Eliminating compensation for pain and suffering, even in cases of life-changing injuries.
- Replacing lump-sum payments for future loss of earnings with structured annuity payments.
- Introducing prescribed tariffs for medical expenses, potentially not covering the actual costs.
- Excluding expenses covered by medical aid or insurance, potentially leading to reduced coverage by medical schemes.
- Creating an RAF adjudicator, imposing an administrative process before access to court action, limiting the claimant’s constitutional right to access courts.
“These proposed exclusions and restrictions are concerning, particularly for the most vulnerable in society. Road accident victims may face unique discrimination compared to victims in other contexts, such as train or boat accidents, medical negligence cases, and more,” she said.
Haslam emphasized the bill focuses on treating symptoms rather than addressing the root causes, including administrative incompetence and the high collision rate due to inadequate enforcement of traffic laws.