The controversial Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill was recently revived in Parliament, having lapsed at the end of last year.
The bill provides for a no-fault benefit scheme and a new administrator – replacing the current Road Accident Fund, says Jean-Paul Rudd, a partner at law firm Adams & Adams.
“The bill intends moving away from an insurance-based system, which has been in operation in South Africa for many years, to a system of defined and structured benefits,” he said.
“An insurance-based system endeavours to place the victim of a motor vehicle collision in the same position he/she was before the accident.”
While lawmakers claim that the bill is in the interest of the public – as it helps root out unscrupulous lawyers and doctors who have been benefiting from the RAF at the expense of accident victims – Rudd warned that it will result in victims facing huge bills, while receiving little or no compensation.
Of great significance is that children, who are permanently injured in motor vehicle collisions, will only have limited claims for loss of income against the Administrator, he said.
“The claims will be calculated based on the average national income, completely disregarding the child’s academic potential.
“To add insult to injury, the Bill also takes away a victim’s right to sue the common law wrongdoer.
“By way of analogy, a child intending to study medicine, but who is permanently injured in his/her final year of schooling, will receive compensation based on the average national income, as opposed to what he/she could have earned out of a career in medicine. The same holds true for students who have not entered the labour market,” Rudd said.
Citing figures provided by the Road and Safety Organisation, Rudd said that 810,000 people are injured in traffic collision each year in South Africa, made up as follows:
- 742,500 requiring treatment at the scene or in a casualty department;
- 67,500 requiring admission to hospital for a day or longer.
“Unfortunately, the RAF’s administration or the lack thereof is in dire straits. This has resulted in a large percentage of the fuel levy being expended on administrative costs, resulting in it not reaching the victims of motor vehicle collisions, which it is actually intended for,” Rudd said.
“If the bill is approved, children permanently injured will only be entitled to limited compensation, severely prejudicing their Constitutional rights.”