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'LSSA expresses serious concern at reports of irregularities relating to prescribed direct claims by road accident victims.' De Rebus, November 2015:16 [2015] DEREBUS 210

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LSSA expresses serious concern at reports of irregularities relating to prescribed direct claims by road accident victims

Compiled by Barbara Whittle

On 1 October  the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) issued a press release noting its serious concern with media reports relating to the Road Accident Fund (RAF) ‘suing itself’ to halt prescription in cases where road accident victims had lodged claims direct with the RAF. The LSSA was of the view that the RAF had placed the victims in a position where their claim could prescribe in the hands of the Fund.

The media reports indicate the problems that can arise when an insurance company – which the RAF is – tries to represent both itself and the victim. It is inappropriate as it can lead to various undesirable outcomes such as prescription, under settlement of claims, delays and additional costs, none of which the RAF can afford and all of which prejudice road accident victims’ said LSSA Co-chairpersons Busani Mabunda and Richard Scott.

They added that, as regards the principle of the RAF using its panel attorneys to sue itself, there is a lacuna in that there is no provision in the Act or regulations for the RAF to condone or extend prescription, so the only way to interrupt prescription where claimants have claimed direct from the RAF and their claims have not been settled in time, is to issue and serve summons. ‘We assume that the RAF has a mandate – actual or implied – from the claimant to ensure that their claims are processed without prescription setting in. However, in cases where it becomes clear that the claimant is not aware or has not given a mandate,  then all the parties concerned must be held accountable,’ said Mr Mabunda and  Mr Scott.

They added that, if fraud has been perpetrated on the claimants or the dependants of deceased breadwinners by the parties involved in the system, then this must be addressed through the appropriate channels, whether that be the appropriate disciplinary steps and/or criminal prosecutions.

The Co-chairpersons pointed out that the public is best advised to consult an attorney when considering claiming from the RAF. Attorneys have a strict code of professional conduct through which they are held accountable by their relevant law society. ‘The public is still better off using knowledgeable and skilled attorneys to institute claims against the RAF as the accountability of attorneys carries a greater standard of care and diligence towards their clients than the RAF,’ said Mr Mabunda and Mr Scott.

Compiled by Barbara Whittle, communication manager, Law Society of South Africa, barbara@lssa.org.za


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