You may think it would be faster – and financially in your best interests – to try claiming from the Road Accident Fund (RAF) without a lawyer.
In fact, road accident victims obtain a far better financial settlement with the guidance of an experienced attorney.
RAF encourages victims to make direct claims
The RAF continues to encourage road accident victims to pursue direct claims, rather than enlisting legal assistance.
In reality, making a direct claim isn’t as easy as the “3 simple steps” that the RAF suggests – and it often isn’t in claimants’ best interests.
RAF acts as judge and jury
Why would you allow the RAF – the body against which your claim is made – to assess your claim? It makes the RAF both judge and jury.
What’s more, why would you give a state-owned entity that owes R17.2 billion in unpaid claims the sole power to decide if you deserve compensation and how much it should be?
Reasons to engage a lawyer
These reasons explain why it’s never in the best interests of a road accident victim to try claiming directly from the RAF without a lawyer.
Short-changed with hasty settlements
In an attempt to push through 98% of claims within 120 days – as the RAF states it can do – it’s making hasty decisions. Unrepresented claims are processed quickly, without due diligence and long-term injuries may be overlooked.
How can a proper investigation into the quantum of a claim be completed when settlements are so speedy? Without legal representation, a claimant has no way of knowing if the offered compensation is adequate or not. This is leading to under compensation.
No recourse against direct claim
According to Mvuso Notyesi of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA), experience shows that the RAF “always under-settle claims.”
Says Notyesi, “But if you claim through a lawyer, you’re protected by the Attorneys Fidelity Fund (AFF).” This is an insurance fund through which you can sue a lawyer if you’ve been exploited.
If you have received a settlement from the RAF directly, there may be a prospect of suing the RAF for under-settling your claim, It is advisable to consult an attorney with the requisite experience in these matters as soon as possible after receiving your settlement, for an independent opinion.
RAF appoints its own experts
In a direct claim, the RAF appoints medical and other experts, whose interests may not be the claimant’s. Rudy Heyneke, of the Outa anti-tax abuse lobby group, has said, “When you’re processing your own claim, [the RAF] appoints you a medical examiner and so forth … whose interests do you think they will look out for?”
RAF can reject your claim
According to the LSSA, a direct claim may be rejected if the RAF doesn’t consider it “serious” enough. It’s the RAF’s job to investigate and exclude all claims it considers that it’s not obliged to pay.
Direct claim may expire
Also, there’s a risk that a direct claim won’t be finalised in time and will expire or become prescribed (meaning that your right to pursue your claim expires through the passage of time).
Note that if the RAF allows a claim to prescribe, however, it is possible to sue the Fund.
You have to pay for documents
If you make a direct claim, you have to source and pay upfront for reports, records, affidavits and complete documents. These costs can run into thousands of rands.
Essential documents include:
- RAF documents (RAF1 and RAF4)
- medical reports from doctors
- serious injury assessment report
- witness statements
- photographs of the accident and injuries
- medical records from the hospital and doctors
- documents relating to income and future earnings.
How much will it cost?
The RAF states that many attorneys charge exorbitant fees for their services. In fact, many attorneys who specialise in personal injury claims work on a contingency basis.
With a contingency fee agreement in place, an attorney will not be entitled to fees for their services unless you win your case.
If you win the case, an agreed percentage of the compensation is paid to the attorney. To protect claimants, a cap is imposed on the attorney’s contingency fees.
What a lawyer does that you can’t do yourself?
Claiming from the RAF is a complicated and technical process. Lawyers have expertise, experience and know-how to assist with a personal injury claim against the RAF.
They negotiate the very complex and traumatic administrative and legislative process. Lawyers know the necessary documents, how to get reports, complete them and submit them.
How DSC Attorneys can help
We advise you against claiming from the RAF without a lawyer. At DSC Attorneys, we’re experts in road accident claims, with extensive experience in handling claims against the RAF.
Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team are committed to helping road accident victims in our country get the compensation they deserve, in as short a period as possible.