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Proposed changes to Road Accident Fund benefits spark concern

The Road Accident Fund receives more than R45 billion per year generated from the fuel levy.

THE Department of Transport has published a draft Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill 2023 for public comment to be made by October 8.

President of the Law Society of South Africa, Eunice Masipa, said it is of extreme importance that the general public and the relevant civic associations are made aware of the dire consequences that will follow the enactment of the Bill.

“The objections will allow for this Bill to be stopped in its tracks, or at least proceed to a full public participation process.

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“The Bill contains a number of significant changes, which will have far-reaching implications if enacted. The rights of all drivers, passengers and pedestrians to claim compensation for injuries they suffer in a motor vehicle accident will be taken away.

“In its place will be significantly reduced ‘social benefits’. Despite the fact that only very limited social benefits will be paid, the innocent injured party is still denied a common law claim against the guilty party for the balance of his or her loss.

“All claimants will still have to prove that their injuries were suffered as a result of the negligence of the driver or owner of a motor vehicle and all those using the roads will nevertheless, either directly or indirectly, still have to contribute to the Road Accident Fund (RAF) by way of the fuel levy, which is currently R2.18 per litre,” said Masipa.

According to the Law Society of South Africa, the Road Accident Fund receives more than R45 billion per year via the fuel levy.

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“The poor and disempowered, who make up the vast majority of claimants, and who are compelled to use public transport, will bear the brunt of the consequences of these amendments. They will be forced into the public health system, as the prescribed tariffs will not cover the actual costs incurred at a private hospital.

“Under the present system, many receive treatment at dedicated private healthcare facilities. They will not receive any lump-sum payments and it is very likely that, if they are not able to produce a salary slip, they will receive no compensation for loss of earnings. In other words, they will receive no benefit at all, even though they may suffer devastating injuries and are the very people that the fund should protect,” Masipa added.

Comments can be emailed to Lindiwe Twala at twalal@dot.gov.za or Trevor Mphahlele at mphahlelet@dot.gov.za by no later than October 8.

Proposed changes to the current RAF compensation system

Currently: The RAF is a state-backed insurer which steps into the shoes of the wrongdoer and compensates the innocent injured party subject to some caps in respect of loss of income.
Proposed change: The object of the RAF has been changed from the payment of compensation (as a statutory insurer) to the provision of social benefits (welfare), despite the fact that road users continue to pay a significant premium by way of the fuel levy.

Currently: Injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident anywhere in South Africa by any person are covered.
Proposed change: Only persons injured on a public road will be able to claim. Injuries suffered in motor vehicle accidents in parking areas, sports fields, farm roads, driveways, private estates, game reserves or any other private road will not be covered. Persons who are not citizens or direct permanent residents will not be covered. Persons crossing a highway will not be covered. Persons injured in a hit-and-run will not be covered. Pedestrians, drivers and cyclists who may test over the legal limit for alcohol, and their dependants, will not be covered.

Currently: Uncapped compensation for general damages for pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, disfigurement and shock are paid to those who have suffered serious injuries.
Proposed change: No payment will be given for pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, disability, disfigurement or shock, regardless of how catastrophic the injuries might be.

Currently: Loss of earnings and support, past and future, are paid by way of a lump sum, affording the injured claimant or dependants the freedom and dignity to take charge of their own future.
Proposed change: No lump-sum payments for future loss of earnings or support will be made. Future earnings or loss of support will be paid as an annuity (monthly payments). The RAF has the right to continually reassess its liability to continue to pay. If the injured claimant is a breadwinner and dies, the pension will cease, leaving dependants destitute.

Currently: All medical and other expenses reasonably incurred that arise directly from the accident are covered.
Proposed change: Medical and other expenses will be subject to a prescribed tariff, which will not cover the actual costs incurred. All future expenses will be pre-authorised in terms of a procedure to be prescribed and subject to restrictions and exclusions.

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