New Road Accident Benefits Scheme based on “no fault”

Schedule of benefits

A revised draft Road Accident Benefits Scheme Bill, designed to provide a social security scheme for the victims of road accidents, is to be tabled in Parliament to provide a set of defined benefits on a no-fault basis for injury or death arising from car accidents.

At this stage, a draft has been published by the department of transport (DoT) for comment by early July 2014.

The idea of a no-fault approach to compensation is in part to respond to the problems identified with the current fault-based approach, and also to improve and simplify claims procedures so that claims are more speedily dealt with.   This is distinct from the present “insurance-based” procedure where the question and quantum of liability can drag on for years in the courts, the department says.

No civil actions

DoT says the proposals will remove the possibility of civil action for damages in respect of injury or death arising from road accidents instituted against the owner or driver of a vehicle as well as the employer of the driver.

The scheme envisaged by the draft Bill lists a number of stated benefits which can be applied. The administrator of the scheme and his department will have six months in which to accept or reject a claim.   If accepted, payment will be to the claimant within 30 days.

Some of the benefits include health care services, income support, family support and funeral expenses. Payments will be made in respect of medical bills direct to medical parties.

Scheme administrator

Department of transport says a road accident benefit scheme administrator (RABSA) will be appointed and placed in charge of compensation of defined benefits, rather that drawing court awards with legal costs from the road accident fund (RAF), which in turn will fall away.
The key change proposed by the draft legislation is a move away from the insurance-based system of compensation which has been largely unchanged in South Africa since its inception in 1946, to a system of defined and structured benefits.

Legal experts dealing with past claimants requesting payment from the RAF have commented that no compensation will be payable in terms of the proposed schedule of benefits for pain and suffering; loss of amenities of life; disfigurement and emotional suffering.    Also they warn that the cost of running the administration of such a system as RABSA is likely to “eat up” reserves.

More importantly, they say, the legislation “suggests” that only state healthcare and state tariffs would be provided for.

Insurance-based system out

On the subject of the key changes from the insurance-based system, DoT says the proposals state that “no civil action for damages in respect of bodily injury or death” in the case of a road accident be pursued against owner’s vehicles involved, drivers or employers of drivers.  Rather, payment is made in terms of the defined benefits of the new scheme regardless of who caused the accident.

DoT says the new Bill forms part of an initiative to replace the third party compensation method with a system that is “reasonable, equitable, affordable and sustainable”.

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