Court slams brakes on the Road Accident Fund
08 Aug 2008
Cape Town — The Road Accident Fund (RAF) should put its new accident victim payment system on hold, the Cape High Court ruled yesterday.
Delivering judgment on the matter between the RAF and a group of lawyers affiliated to the Law Society of SA, Judge Jeanette Traverso said the fund should not go ahead with the new system.
The system, which would have seen compensation monies paid directly into the bank account of victims as opposed to that of their lawyer, should be put on hold pending the completion of a court review process.
She ordered the RAF to pay the legal costs of the applicants.
The court application followed the RAF’s August 1 announcement that the fund will no longer be paying victim compensation monies to their lawyers’ bank accounts.
The lawyers told the court that the new system made it difficult for them to continue representing victims, as there was no longer any guarantee that clients would pay their legal fees upon receiving money from the RAF.
Traverso agreed that the new system would impact negatively on existing contracts between lawyers and their clients.
RAF chief executive Jacob Modise said the fund had hoped that Traverso, who did not immediately give reasons to support her ruling, would acknowledge the good intentions of the new system.
“All that we are saying is that compensation due to you should be paid directly into your account,” he said.
The court challenge was indicative of the length to which some people were prepared to go in resisting change.
Modise said the RAF would obey the court interdict and focus more on preparations for the court review process.
In a later statement, he said the ruling meant the country’s courtrooms would remain “clogged up” with RAF cases.
Such cases constituted at least 60% of the civil role in any court on any given day.
Modise indicated that it looked “like the judge had already made up her mind”, that the RAF was unsustainable in its current form, and that the only way out might be a political solution.