The latest proposals by government to amend the Road Accident Fund was met with strong opposition by the lawyers, doctors and accident victims who attended Tuesday's hearing.

The latest proposals by government to amend the Road Accident Fund was met with strong opposition by the lawyers, doctors and accident victims who attended Tuesday's hearing.

During a public hearing organised by Parliament's transport portfolio committee, those present argued that the proposals would undermine the rights of the accident victims. The most contentious proposals included limiting claims for general damages to R100 000, and capping future loss of earnings claims to R160 000 per year.

In terms of the proposals, claimants would not be entitled to representation by a doctor or lawyer during the assessment process.

The proposal to establish panels of experts to assess general claims was also condemned, according to a Business Day report.

The newspaper noted that the fund has liabilities of R24 billion. The fund has been the target of fraudsters, and last year was on the brink of financial collapse when it lacked the cash to pay claims.

A commission of enquiry has been established, and several legislative amendments have been made by government to address the fund's problems.

The Coalition for the Road Accident Fund, represented by André Calitz, objected to the lack of consultation by the department in formulating its proposals. It argued that the fund could be strengthened and its management improved without adjusting the laws, which would greatly affect the rights of accident victims claiming compensation.

Calitz said that capping the damages paid by the fund would have serious implications, as it would be unconstitutional to limit the rights of victims to pursue negligent drivers in civil proceedings for the balance of their claims. However, should the law be maintained, negligent drivers could face ruinous liability claims. He added that, over the years, the courts have developed case law to determine what should be paid in compensation for different injuries. This would become obsolete once the courts are excluded from the process.

The General Council of the Bar further opposed the capping, saying that the losses and expenses would be shifted to either to innocent victims, insurance companies, or the general public.