The Road Accident Fund claim process: why it takes so long

If you have had the misfortune of being injured in a road accident through no fault of your own, you should be entitled to claim compensation from the Road Accident Fund. However, this can be a long and arduous process requiring patience and full engagement to follow through to the hopeful end result. There are a number of steps you will need to complete for your application to be successful – the first being to obtain the services of a reputable attorney with experience in taking and tracking your claim through the process.

Step One. Your first consultation:

  1. Your attorney will conduct a thorough consultation at the outset in order to collect important information.
  2. You must provide the attorney with full details of the accident:
    • Date / Time / Place
    • a merits assessment (a completed affidavit that details your version of events)
    • details of any injuries and treatment to date, including relevant medical history, and proof of medical expenses to date.
    • proof of income and employment history
    • a copy of identity documentation
    • photos of the vehicle damage (where relevant), scene of the accident and/or injuries.
  3. During this first consultation your attorney will explain the various steps in the process, and will also fully explain their responsibilities and fee agreement. Once signed, a copy will be provided for your records.
  4. You will need to keep your attorney abreast of any changes to your contact details, any health changes, as well as updates on further treatment and any further medical costs that need to be included in the claim.

Step Two. Requests for documents:

  1. Your attorney will then request further documents that will be required in order to lodge the matter with the Road Accident Fund.
  2. The most important document is the RAF 1 form. This must be completed by your medical practitioner or the hospital that treated you after the accident.
  3. If death and subsequent loss of support is an aspect of the claim, then a post-mortem report must be provided. Once these documents are received, along with the affidavit, identity documents/birth certificates, and other supporting documentation, your attorney can lodge a valid claim with the RAF.
  4. Where possible, it is also a good idea to include further documents, such as: the accident report and a copy of the police docket (where available); proof of income; proof of medical expenses.
  5. In the case of loss of support, further documents will be required. These must include: the death certificate; proof of funeral expenditure; as well as proof of the duty of support, ie: marriage certificate if applicable, or alternatively 3 affidavits from family / friends of the deceased confirming such a duty; unabridged birth certificates of minors.

Step Three. Lodgement of the claim:

  1. Once lodged, there is a waiting time by law of 120 days. This gives the Road Accident Fund time to consider the matter and make an offer – or request further documentation.
  2. At this point the attorney will re-consult with you, as by this time you will have had some time to recover from the devastation of the accident. It is important to follow up and re-assess the injuries (physical and/or psychological). Appropriate experts will be called upon to provide professional opinions in order to determine the long term effect of the claim, ie: future medical expenses/loss of income/support and/or general damages.
  3. The experts will only assess your condition at least 1-year post-accident. This is in order to ensure that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).

Step Four. Litigation:

  1. After expiry of the 120 day period, and if no offer has been received, your attorney will issue summons against the Road Accident Fund.
  2. The RAF will usually defend the matter and file a plea setting out the reasons for their defence.
  3. Upon receipt of this plea (approximately 30 business days after serving the summons), your attorney will apply for  a trial date.
  4. It currently takes at least 2 years to receive a case management date in the High Court. Case management is a process you need to go through in order to have the matter certified for trial. Essentially it is a Judge who ensures that a matter is not capable of settlement and is trial ready.
  5. Once a matter is certified as trial ready, it takes approximately 6 months before your court date.

Step Five: Settlement and finalisation:

A court date is there as a backup in the event that a matter is not settled. Remember, a settlement can be reached at any stage of the process. Any offers received will be discussed with you as to whether the offer should be accepted, or whether litigation should be continued to obtain a better result. You should always be assured that your attorney is working with your best interests at heart.

Simpsons Attorneys

At Simpsons, we ensure that all persons are able to receive the advice and support they need. Specialising in personal injury claims resulting from motor vehicle accidents, medical negligence and product and public liability, we care about our clients, focusing on personal considerations as well as facts and procedural knowledge. The law must take its course – but it must do so within egalitarian rules promoting fairness and accessibility for all. To find out more about Simpsons, please visit: www.simpsons.co.za
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