Claiming from the Road Accident Fund isn’t a quick process. Maladministration and heavy caseloads mean a very long wait before claimants see a payout.
Before pursuing a claim, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the process and how long it can take.
This will help you manage your expectations about how long you’ll wait for your case to be resolved and your compensation paid out.
How long does the average RAF claim take?
On average, it takes three to six years for the RAF to pay out a claim. Depending on the circumstances, it can take longer.
Once the claim has been settled in court and the RAF ordered to pay compensation, it may take months before you receive the funds.
Steps in the RAF claims process (and how long they may take)
These are the steps to be taken when you file a Road Accident Fund claim.
Find out if your claim is legitimate
Speak to an experienced RAF claims lawyer to find out if your claim is viable. With DSC Attorneys, this initial consultation is free.
With the assistance of your lawyer, you must collect evidence to support your claim. This will include documents like accident reports, witness statements and medical records. It’s essential to be thorough, so this step can take a few weeks or months.
Lodging the claim
Once the documentation is ready, your claim can be lodged using the appropriate RAF claim forms. Your claim will be registered on the official RAF claim system. This can take up to a week.
The RAF will investigate your claim based on the submitted evidence. It is granted 120 days to do this. However, the RAF seldom completes its investigation within this allocated time. The investigation may run over the deadline by weeks or months.
After the investigation, the RAF might offer a settlement amount to the claimant, so that the case doesn’t have to go to court.
This amount may be significantly lower than the compensation that the courts typically award in similar cases. For this reason, it’s vital to have competent legal advice.
Summons to trial
Once the 120-day investigation window has closed, your attorney will issue the RAF with a summons (whether or not it has made a settlement offer or finished its investigation). This will mean the case is going to be pursued in court.
Setting a trial date
The next step is to set a trial date. This can take many months to be finalised. Each division of the High Court has different pre-trial procedures that need to be undertaken before a trial date is set. It may be necessary to set more than one trial date throughout the court case.
Settlement and payment
Once a settlement has been reached in court, it can take the RAF as long as 180 days or more to pay you the awarded amount. At the end of 2020, the average pay-out period was 312 days. In the second quarter of 2021, it was 281 days on average.
Factors that contribute to delays
Factors that delay your RAF claim can come from the courts, the RAF or even your legal team. Some common causes of delays include:
- difficulty obtaining supporting documents from third parties
- dispute over the cause of an accident and who was responsible for it
- dispute over the compensation to be granted to the claimant
- lengthy court proceedings
- determining medical outcomes.
It’s important to find a legal team that understands how time-consuming an RAF claim can be so that there are no unnecessary delays when gathering evidence.
The RAF is dealing with a massive backlog in claims and its on-going financial woes have been making it hard to ensure on-time payouts for years.
Backlogs at the courts also contribute to a long wait for a trial date. This is exacerbated when more than one trial date is required.
What happens if the RAF misses its own deadlines?
During the initial 120-day investigation period, no further procedural steps may be taken against the RAF.
However, claimants are still able to take their case to court even if the RAF doesn’t complete its investigation in the prescribed period. Your lawyer will do this by issuing a summons, making it clear that the claim will be pursued in court.
The RAF aims to pay settled claims within 180 days. Despite improvements in this area, most payouts still take longer. Claimants can petition the courts to order the RAF to settle claims within the prescribed period.
Court attempts to speed up RAF claims processing
In April 2021, the Pretoria High Court ordered the RAF to pay out all claims already granted that were older than 180 days or where a settlement had been reached within 30 business days.
Unfortunately, by July 2021 some claimants were still waiting for their payouts.
How DSC Attorneys can help
At DSC Attorneys, our team specialises in personal injury law and is highly experienced in handling Road Accident Fund claims.
A number of our attorneys previously served as panel attorneys for the Road Accident Fund. In addition, one of our firm’s directors, Kirstie Haslam, has been actively involved in parliamentary debate surrounding proposed changes to Road Accident Fund legislation.
Our attorneys and medico-legal specialists give road accident victims and their dependents the best chance of securing the compensation they deserve. Contact us for legal advice and representation that’s effective and caring. We work on a no win, no fee basis.