The Road Accident Benefit Scheme (RABS) has been a topic of hot debate over recent months. Despite universal opposition to its implementation and concern about the implications it could have for road accident victims, it would appear that government is determined to implement the Scheme.
Why the change?
The existing Road Accident Fund (RAF) has been subject to administrative and financial mismanagement. It has also been accused of not adequately protecting claimants’ personal information.
Rather than fixing the problems with the current system, the State has opted to replace it altogether, and RABS is the result.
RAF vs RABS
A side-by-side comparison of the RAF and RABS uncovers a number of shortcomings in the new scheme.
|No compensation is payable to those solely responsible for causing road accidents||A no-fault system|
|Apportionment of fault helps determine the extent of compensation||Those directly responsible for causing accidents (for example, through drunk or reckless driving) qualify for the same compensation as other road accident victims|
|Compensation for past medical costs as incurred at settlement or conclusion of the claim is provided as lump sum payments to claimants; future expenses are covered by a statutory undertaking and are reimbursed as incurred||Medical costs are covered at contracted healthcare providers who are paid directly, limiting individuals’ choice of treatments and medical practitioners. Proposed medical tariffs mean that those without private medical cover will probably be limited to treatment at public health institutions only|
|Compensation for loss of income is provided in lump sum payments||Limited income support is to be paid monthly.
Loss of support claims will be cut off after 15 years or at 60 years of age, potentially leaving elderly road accident victims in need.
Benefit payments will also cease once a beneficiary returns to work, regardless of the impact that their injuries have had on their earning potential. Benefit payments can also be suspended or terminated at any time in the Administrator’s sole discretion, for a number of reasons
|Anyone injured on South African roads can claim||Non-South African citizens can claim compensation only for emergency medical services.|
|Students qualify for compensation for loss of income based on future earning potential prior to serious injury||Students are automatically regarded as unemployed and won’t qualify for compensation based on their future earning potential and at best will be able to recover negligible benefits, even where they are seriously injured|
|Compensation for loss of potential future earnings can be claimed for seriously injured children||Compensation for loss of potential income can be claimed only once a child turns 18 and is limited to a national income average (which currently amounts to about R3 500 per month). Any income earned (despite prior earning potential) is deducted from this already minimal sum|
|Allows for general damages to be claimed||No general damages can be claimed|
|Compensation that’s paid out forms part of the beneficiary’s estate||Benefits are cut off if the beneficiary dies|
|Funeral costs are covered for family breadwinners killed in road accidents||Funeral cover is capped at R20 000|
Other disadvantages of RABS
RABS has some further disadvantages that make it a poor alternative to the RAF:
- the spouse of a deceased breadwinner will automatically lose support payments once they turn 60
- road accident victims who are over 60 at the time of an accident won’t be able to claim for loss of income, even if they were employed at the time
- RABS administration will determine what medical treatment road accident victims need and which healthcare providers can be used
- RABS administration can take up to 180 days to accept or reject a claim
- claimants will not necessarily be informed if their claims are rejected
- access to legal representation is effectively eliminated, as claimants are not entitled to recover legal costs
- access to Court is also severely curtailed, with only limited rights of internal appeals and review being provided for.
There is also concern that the new scheme has been rushed through parliament and will ultimately leave victims, especially those living in poverty, even more vulnerable.
Under the current RAF, accident victims receive compensation in the form of lump sum payments. In the majority of cases, attorneys accept payment for their services on a contingency basis, once these lump sums are paid out
RABS eliminates lump sum payments in favour of small monthly payments. One result is that most accident victims in South Africa won’t be able to afford legal assistance with their road accident claims. They may face significant difficulties in submitting and substantiating their claims, and little recourse in the event of claims being unfairly rejected, delayed or underpaid.
Road accident claims with DSC Attorneys
At DSC Attorneys, we’re experts in road accident claims, with extensive experience in handling claims against the RAF.
Over a period of years, we’ve been closely monitoring the progress of the proposed RABS. One of our firm’s directors, Kirstie Haslam, has also been participating in parliamentary debate about its structure and implementation.
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. We work on a no win, no fee basis.