Like other types of claims for damages, road accident claims are subject to a time limit. This is known as a prescription period. In this article, we cover the Road Accident Fund claim period and relevant exceptions.
Validity period for road accident claims
If no exception applies, a claim for compensation from the Road Accident Fund must be submitted within three years from the date when the cause of action arose (typically the date of the accident).
This prescription period is specified in the Road Accident Fund Act.
Section 23(1) of the Act states that a claim, “shall prescribe upon the expiry of a period of three years from the date upon which the cause of action arose.”
However, a number of exceptions may apply. These either alter the prescription period or allow for it to be delayed.
An additional two years for issuing summons
Section 23(3) of the Road Accident Fund Act goes on to specify that, “No claim which has been lodged in terms of section 17(4)(a) or 24 shall prescribe before the expiry of a period of five years from the date on which the cause of action arose.”
In practice, Section 23(3) gives claimants an additional two years to issue summons against the Road Accident Fund, in the event that a claim was lodged but still has not been settled.
What happens after the prescription period ends
If a road accident claim isn’t submitted within the prescription period and no exception applies, the right to claim expires.
Exceptions to the general Road Accident Fund claim period
Exceptions to the general three-year time limit for road accident claims include:
- claims where the party responsible for an accident can’t be identified (so-called “hit and run” accidents)
- claims involving minors
- claims delayed due to mental incapacity of the claimant.
RAF time limit for claims involving hit and run accidents
In a hit and run accident, the guilty party (driver and/or vehicle owner) is not identified.
In this event, the Road Accident Fund claim period is reduced to two years from the date when the cause of action arose.
A road accident claim involving a hit and run accident can be especially complex, making it vital to have suitably experienced legal representation.
RAF time limit for claims involving minors
If a road accident claim is for a minor, the prescription period starts only from the day that the claimant turns 18.
The claimant then has the usual three years to lodge a claim (provided no other exception applies).
RAF time limit where mental incapacity affects ability to claim
An exception may be recognised where a claimant has a mental incapacity that prevents them from claiming within the prescription period.
Under the RAF Act, an exception can apply if a person is under curatorship or held as a patient under mental illness legislation.
However, mental incapacity may be grounds for an exception even if the claimant isn’t under curatorship or held as a patient.
In 2021, for example, the Constitutional Court ruled that a road accident claim could proceed seven years after the accident.
In a car accident, Koos Jacobs suffered head injuries that left him mentally incapacitated. He wasn’t placed under curatorship or committed as a mental health patient.
Nonetheless, the Constitutional Court overturned a ruling that his claim had prescribed. It ruled that where a mental incapacity makes it impossible for a road accident victim to bring a claim in time, an exception to the Road Accident Fund claim period should apply
Road Accident Fund claims with DSC Attorneys
Pursuing a Road Accident Fund claim is a lengthy, complex process. For several reasons, it’s not a good idea to submit a claim without professional legal representation.
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in getting road accident victims the compensation they deserve – and we work on a no win, no fee basis. Contact us online or call 0861 465 879 for the best possible legal support and representation.