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New proposed law is flawed, says chairman of body to protect crash victims

HILE the chief executive of the Road Accident Fund (RAF) is set to address Parliament tomorrow on the benefits of the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill, many remain sceptical as to whether the bill will benefit the public.

Draft legislation was completed in 2012 and published in the Government Gazette for public comment. Owing to the huge public interest, the Transport Department extended the period for public participation to next month.

The bill will replace the existing RAF one which is based on the common law claim for damages. The new bill is based on certain prescribed statutory benefits, based on a ?no fault? basis.

The Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims was recently set up by concerned parties in response to the bill.

Its chairman, Pieter de Bruyn, said that after studying the pro-

Wposed bill and sourcing information from various medical, actuarial and other interested parties, it emerged that there were flaws in it. ?It became abundantly clear that the bill is all but reasonable, fair, equitable, practical and sustainable. Nor will it be cost effective,? he said. He said the bill, in its present form, has far-reaching and adverse effects on the public and road users.

?They need to be informed of the prejudicial nature of the bill and the far-reaching implications, not only for the victim but for the government at large.?

The lobbyist group is of the opinion that the bill does not sufficiently take into account its implications on the socio-economic, health and related sectors of the country.

De Bruyn said group aims to assist with the establishment of a viable system of compensation which will be in everyone?s interest.

?We believe there is a viable alternative to the bill which will save revenue, without having to restrict the victim?s benefits.?

Highlighting a few problems his organisation has with the new bill, De Bruyn said it allows the ?wrongdoer? to claim benefits on an equal footing with the victim.

?This will discourage road safety and compliance with the rules of road usage in our country,? he said.

The bill also excludes, or limits, its liability to contribute to an accident victim?s costs, including legal or medical costs incurred to prepare and submit a claim.

It also excludes an accident victim?s right to claim any damages suffered over and above the benefits provided for. This, he said, will force a substantial number or road users to take out expensive personal insurance cover.

A victim will also no longer be able to claim general damages for pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life and emotional trauma.

De Bruyn is of the opinion that the new bill will cripple the already overburdened public health sector.

But Eugene Watson, chief executive of the Road Accident Fund, argues that the old RAF legislation is outdated.

During a recent workshop held on the new bill, he spoke about the challenges faced by the RAF.

He was quoted in last month?s edition of De Rebus saying that the fault-basis system restricted claims to being timeously finalised, as some cases took more than five years to finalise.

There were also spiralling costs, most of which were for the RAF?s account. .

?The scheme in terms of the (RABS) bill has been designed so that predetermined benefits are provided on a no-fault basis; structured benefit payments are provided on a temporary and longer-term basis and to sustain the beneficiary for as long as support is required.

?The rehabilitation of the crash victim is a priority; no general damages benefit is provided to ensure sufficient resources are available to prioritise rehabilitation; access to benefits is expanded through the removal of fault and defined benefits and there are simplified claims procedures designed to ensure expedited access to benefits.?

Dr Maria du Toit, a director-general at the Department of Transport, was quoted in De Rebus as saying that despite various legislative changes, the RAF system remained an unsustainable, unaffordable and unequal system of third party insurance. The system still favoured the rich and all accident victims needed to be treated equally, she said.

Du Toit said one of the changes will be that those earning above the capped amount awarded under the new system (about 4 percent of the population ) will have to make provision through private insurance for losses due to the capped clause.

Written comments on the bill can be submitted via e-mail to rabsbill@dot.gov.za. For more information on Association for the Protection of Road Accident Victims

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