Pretoria - A full Bench (three judges) of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, this week heard arguments by several Road Accident Fund (RAF) claimants, asking that directives issued by the entity which places obstacles in the way of issuing new claims to be overturned.
It was argued on behalf of the eight claimants who turned to the courts, that the directives make it nearly impossible to lodge claims and that the RAF is infringing on the constitutional rights of claimants.
In terms of these directives and an amended claim form, claimants must attach a host of documents, such as a comprehensive accident report and hospital and medical records, before they are allowed to even lodge it.
The court was asked to set aside the requirement for all the compulsory information before being able to lodge a claim.
In a first step, the court earlier gave the green light for claims to be lodged with the RAF for now without all the documents. This was pending this week’s review application.
Advocate JP van den Berg SC, leader of the team acting on behalf of the applicants, argued that the newly introduced claim requirements made it very difficult for road accident victims to lodge claims.
The court was told that in first lodging a claim, accident victims or if they were represented, their attorneys, did not at that stage have all the information required by the RAF.
The RAF, however, refused to accept claims if each and every document required, were not submitted.
The RAF has adopted the stance that it will be better served if claimants are obliged to submit more than the minimum documents up to now prescribed in the Road Accident Fund Act and Regulations.
The RAF submitted that the lists of documents required in terms of the management directive will facilitate better and more prompt evaluation of claims. It said submitting all the documents at the time claims were lodged, could lead to the speedy processing of the claims and in some cases, to possible settlements.
The RAF in the past complained that it has a host of claim forms, without the necessary documentation, which hampered it in processing claims.
The applicants, on the other hand, submitted that this is unreasonable and unfair. One of the biggest issues with the new directives is that it is impossible for claimants to have all documents at hand when they lodge a claim for the first time.
Earlier claimants were able to lodge claims with what they have and later submit the other documents as they became available.
Van den Berg told the court that the new directives have direct and dramatic consequences for victims of motor vehicle accidents wishing to lodge claims with the fund.
He said the prejudice resulting from the implementation of the decisions did not discriminate.
“All role players in the RAF compensation scheme will feel the practical, administrative, financial, and logistical complications. The decisions will be particularly prejudicial for direct claimants left without assistance or legal representation to protect or enforce their right to compensation.”
Van den Berg said in adopting and implementing the decisions, the RAF has disregarded its statutory duties and responsibilities.
“The decisions impose unreasonable and unlawful restrictions on persons wishing to exercise their constitutional right to claim compensation as per the provisions of the RAF Act. Ultimately, the decisions disregard a motor vehicle accident victim’s right to social security and constitute an unlawful bar for persons wishing to claim … It unfairly and unreasonably limits them,” he argued.
Allowing the decisions to stand, will result in a dire situation of ever-increasing uncompensated road accident victims, he said. “The decisions are simply not rationally related to the public good they allegedly seek to achieve,” Van den Berg said.
Judgment was reserved.