The Law Society of South Africa is concerned that the Satchwell Report recommendations for the Road Accident Fund could leave South Africans without adequate financial protection and medical care if they have an accident.

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) is concerned that the Satchwell Report recommendations for the Road Accident Fund could leave South Africans without adequate financial protection and medical care if they have an accident.

The insurance industry warned last month that changes to RAF could lead to increases in private accident insurance. The Satchwell Report recommended that lump-sum payments to victims or road accidents be stopped in favour of much smaller payments based on “regular reassessments”.

Judge Kathy Satchwell said a "no fault" principle should be introduced and the amount of compensation that an injured person could receive for any particular injury capped. But those injured would retain their right to sue for the balance of damage suffered. The insurance industry said it would then face far more claims than before. “This will impact on either the costs of insurance or on the type and extent of cover provided.”

The law society said the change to smaller payments with regular assessments could be a problem. “That will basically mean that victims – many of whom are severely debilitated – will have to report for regular re-evaluations of their condition, and would probably have to queue for hours to receive monthly payments from an already overburdened Department of Social Services. Instead of having to prove the seriousness of their injuries only once in court, victims will now have to do so on a regular basis, and probably without the assistance of medical experts, attorneys or advocates. Victims would be almost entirely dependent on the good graces of government administrators.

“Currently, every motorist and all road users are automatically covered for all loss caused by personal injury and also protected against any personal liability in respect of any injury negligently caused to or by another person on the road. The cost to the average motorist through the fuel levy is about R350 per year and the cover is automatic without any formalities or documentation,” LSSA said.

“In contrast, the proposed new system is likely to cost motorists much more, deliver negligible compensation and require every motorist to buy expensive top-up personal injury and indemnity insurance. Estimates for this type of insurance as at 1998 were between R3 000 to R4 000 per month for a family of four.

“The attorneys’ profession together with many other role players do not believe that the Satchwell Commission’s proposals are in the public’s best interests,” LSSA said. The society described the recommendations as “a bad plan at the worst possible time” in the wake of one of the worst holiday deaths tolls on South African roads.

The LSSA said it had convened a workshop within the near future in order to analyse and discuss the Satchwell report in detail. The Satchwell Commission of Inquiry was established to find ways to root out corruption in the RAF.