Your rights as a victim of a road accident

2018-07-26 06:01

IF you are injured in a road accident as a result of the negligence or recklessness of another driver, you may be able to claim compensation from the state. Every time you purchase fuel, a percentage of your purchase (a statutorily prescribed levy) is contributed towards a road accident fund.

The Road Accident Fund (created by the Road Accident Fund Act 56 of 1996) is a state-supported insurance that provides compensation to the victims of road accidents. In essence, the state steps into the shoes of the guilty motorist in order to compensate the innocent road accident victim.

Over the years the administration of the scheme underwent various changes, with the latest amendments affecting claimant compensation being in 2008. Currently a successful claimant is paid a lump sum, with the exception of future medical expenses. Unfortunately, the 2008 amendments placed tighter limits on what a claimant can claim for. Lodging a successful Road Accident Fund claim requires an understanding that various factors may influence one’s claim.

Expert knowledge is required of when and how claims may be lodged, who qualifies to lodge a claim, how claims are computed, the thresholds placed on certain categories of claims, the time taken to complete investigations, as well as weighing up the pros and cons of accepting an offer of settlement rather than waiting for an investigation to be completed.

It often happens that a claimant may be quick to accept an offer of settlement, only to find that had they waited for investigations to be completed or obtained advice on how best to protect their interests, a more favourable compensation may have been obtained.

The effect of accepting an offer of settlement is that, it results in a full and final settlement of compensation in respect of that particular claim. It is therefore imperative that victims of road accidents obtain proper and expert advice prior to lodging their claims, so as to best protect their interests. For instance, one of the effects of the 2008 amendments to the Road Accident Fund Act is that claims for general damages (pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, disfigurement and disability) is only paid in the case of serious injury. This begs the question: what is a serious injury?

A serious injury assessment report must be compiled to answer this question.

This requires consulting with a professional who understands how the fund assesses the impairment of a person and the thresholds set by the Department of Transport in respect of whole person impairment. There could be various nuances associated with computing and lodging one’s claim.

Added to the mix, is government’s latest amendment to the manner in which victims of road accidents will be compensated in future. Parliament is currently considering a Bill, called the Road Accident Fund Benefit Scheme Bill, 2017. It is envisaged that this bill will replace the current Road Accident Fund Act.

Accordingly, claimants’ compensation claims will be centrally affected.

For instance, the new bill, does not make provision for the payment of general damages anymore, neither does it make provision for the payment of benefits to foreign nationals nor to dependants’ resident abroad.

The bill makes provision for a new needs-based model of compensation. It also effectively removes the ability of the claimant to approach the courts for relief, except in very narrow instances of judicial review.

In summary therefore, road accident fund claims are currently complex and require expert guidance in order to obtain the best possible result. The proposed amendments to legislation will further complicate matters.

For expert advice on road accident fund matters you may contact the office of Dr Sugudhav-Sewpersadh Attorneys.

— Supplied.


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