Court rejects claim against RAF Act

THE Law Society of SA has failed to prove that new Road Accident Fund legislation was unconstitutional, the Pretoria high court ruled yesterday.

THE Law Society of SA has failed to prove that new Road Accident Fund legislation was unconstitutional, the Pretoria high court ruled yesterday.

Acting Judge Hans Fabricius, in a 202-page judgment, rejected the society's legal arguments against the RAF Amendment Act and certain regulations.

The society had described these as "incoherent, discriminatory, arbitrary, irrational, haphazard and unbalanced".

The judge did not grant a costs order against the society.

The society joined forces with the SA Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, three organisations representing the disabled and seven road accident victims against the transport minister and the RAF.

The society contended the act and regulations prejudiced road accident victims. The new legislation also lowered levels of medical and hospital treatment and took away victims' common-law right to sue wrongdoers for damages not covered by the act.

The transport minister and the RAF argued the previous legislation was not affordable.

They said the new system of compensation was designed to be economically viable, and would divide available resources more equitably among road users.

Fabricius found none of the changes to the Act and its regulations violated the applicants' human rights or was so unreasonable or unrelated to a legitimate government purpose that it should be struck down.

He said he could not say that the decision of the legislature to enact the Amendment Bill was unreasonable or undesirable or that it ought to be improved.

The judge dismissed the society's argument that the limitation of claims for loss of income and support to R160000 a year was irrational.

He said the majority of personal injury claims by the RAF came to less than R50000. The RAF was thus using its scarce resources to pay claimants who had not suffered serious injuries.

This was inappropriate, given that the focus should be on treatment and rehabilitating the injured back to physical and economic life, rather than compensating them for short-term discomfort.

"The envisaged savings on the crucial matters of the 2008 Amendment Act would be in the region of 35percent," Fabricius said.

"This is substantial, and it must also be considered against the light of the allegation by the minister that the limit introduced by the act of R160000 for future loss of earnings only affects about one percent of the population." - Sapa

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