The Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) is a proposed replacement for the current Road Accident Fund (RAF), which is a state-supported insurance fund designed to provide compensation for those seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents on South African roads.
Why is there a need for a new system?
The RAF has been in financial difficulty for some time. This year, its problems came to a head.
RAF assets were seized by sheriffs of the court towards settlement of the fund’s outstanding debts, and payments to accident victims all but ground to a halt. More recently, the RAF faced accusations of violating the Protection of Personal Information Act by failing to protect the confidential information of South African citizens.
It’s clear that the RAF is in a mess – but RABS, the proposed replacement, doesn’t appear to be a reasonable, fair or practical solution to its shortcomings.
“No fault” system
The RAF compensates road accident victims who’ve been seriously injured due to accidents that they weren’t fully responsible for causing.
In contrast, RABS is intended to be a “no-fault” system. At least in theory, it will provide compensation to all individuals seriously injured in road accidents, regardless of whether those individuals were responsible for the accidents.
This means there will be no negative outcome for negligent, reckless drivers whose behaviour results in the death or serious injury of other motorists, passengers, cyclists or pedestrians.
Also, a “no fault” system will result in a drastic increase in the number of applications received by the fund administration. The most likely consequence is that the compensation granted to accident victims will be significantly reduced.
The RAF is already proving unable to cope with the high financial and administrative burden of the claims it receives. How likely is it that the RABS will not only succeed where the RAF hasn’t, but cope with a much higher volume of claims?
New administrative process
It’s proposed that the RABS administration will require all claims to be submitted electronically – and that claimants will be responsible for covering the costs of obtaining medical and police reports, with no potential for reimbursement through the fund.
Together, these requirements could exclude the poor from pursuing claims.
It’s proposed that the RABS administration will be entitled to take up to 180 days to accept or reject a claim, and claimants will not be informed if their claims are rejected. This means that claimants will need to keep track of the time that has passed since their claims were filed.
In addition, all appeals for rejected claims must be made to the RABS administration – the same body that rejected the claims in the first place.
No immediate benefits
Road crash victims and their dependants will not be entitled to claim from the RABS administration for the first 60 days following the accident.
Reduced benefits for accident victims
The RAF makes lump sum payments to road accident victims. In contrast, benefits under the proposed RABs will be provided as small monthly payments. Benefits will be adjusted in accordance with inflation, and may be revised or suspended at any time.
Most concerning, it’s proposed that benefits payments for all beneficiaries of RABS will cease after 15 years; when the injured party returns to work; or when the injured party reaches the age of 60 – whichever comes first.
This means that compensation for road accident victims suffering life-long consequences of their injuries will be terminated, regardless of the continuing impacts of their injuries or their continuing need for support.
In addition, loss of support payments made to the spouse of a deceased breadwinner will cease when the spouse reaches the age of 60 years.
Medical care compensation for injured children and persons over the 60 years of age, as well as individuals earning over R220 000 per annum prior to the accident, will be limited to emergency medical care only.
The RABS administration will also reserve the right to stipulate the nature of the medical treatment that every injured individual receives, and to specify which healthcare providers can be used.
Reduced and restricted compensation for loss of income
Under the proposed RABS, compensation for loss of income will be capped at 75% of the claimant’s monthly earnings prior to the accident, up to a specified maximum value.
Accident victims who are unemployed or unable to prove their pre-accident income will be awarded 75% of the average annual national income (currently R43 965 per annum).
The impact of the claimant’s injuries on their future earning potential will not be taken into consideration. For example, students injured in road accidents will be considered unemployed and compensated accordingly.
Reduced and restricted compensation for loss of support
It’s proposed that if the spouse of the injured or deceased individual is employed, their own income will be deducted from the compensation awarded for loss of support, regardless of the actual financial loss.
In addition, no support will be granted to South African dependants (including spouses and children) residing outside of South Africa.
Loss of access to legal representation
Under the proposed RABS, claimants won’t receive lump sum payments. Accordingly, most won’t be able to cover the cost of hiring attorneys to assist with their claims. This is likely to result in the rejection of otherwise valid claims, and deprives individuals of options for enforcing their right to compensation.
Road accident claims and DSC Attorneys
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in road accident claims and are uniquely qualified to secure the best possible settlements on behalf of our clients.
A number of our attorneys previously served as panel attorneys for the Road Accident Fund and one of our firm’s directors, Kirstie Haslam, has been actively involved in parliamentary debate surrounding the proposed new RABS system.
The current situation with the RAF and various aspects of the proposed new system are cause for concern.
However, rest assured that our attorneys will be continuing to defend the rights of road accident victims and their families, and to work in their best interests. Contact us for expert legal assistance – we offer free initial consultations at no obligation and work on a “no win, no fee” basis.