Matthew Lester: RAF, levies, ambulance chasers and the never-ending drunk cycle

Did you know I can go out and get pissed, steal a car, cause a crash, put innocent parties in wheelchairs for life and walk away immune from civil liability?

Except for the damages to the cars, that is. Even if I were to be prosecuted for reckless or drunk driving I probably wouldn’t go to jail for a first offence.

When I had sobered up I could find an ambulance chaser to sue the Road Accident Fund for to compensate me for my self-inflicted injury.

That’s why we have to pay Road Accident Fund Levy within the fuel levy. It’s a form of mandatory insurance for all who drive. And in return for the levy all are immune from damages that they may cause to others. Given the state of our roads and the record of RSA drivers, we need that.

Everyone predicted an increase in the fuel levy in this year’s national budget speech. Given the decline in the oil price there is currently space in the fuel price to absorb the 80,5 cents a liter. But we hoped that the increase would go a long way in containing the national debt.

But no such luck. The fuel levy increase of 30,5 cents per liter will only increase tax collections from R47 billion to R49 billion. The other 50 cents a litre will land up recapitalising the road accident fund that is currently as broke as two short planks.

I would imagine that it is virtually impossible to prove a claim against the RAF without professional help. That’s why most claims are brought by specialists. They gladly accept a contingency fee of between 25 and 50% of the final settlement.

So, if the RAF increase is 50 cents a litre, how much is landing up in the hands of the ambulance chasers? They should do very well.

What’s the solution?

No RAF settlement should ever be paid to drunk drivers. Furthermore, the RAF should be able to pursue drunk drivers for the recovery of any award paid as a result of a drunk driver.

I have seen RAF settlements get blown in the same pub that caused the problem in the first place. The lumpsum award is so often squandered. So what about a bit of forced preservation? The payment of monthly annuities instead of lump sum settlements. It may even recover some tax (the current awards are tax free). At least the recipient would not be able to squander the lot in one go.

The ambulance chasers could still be paid in a lump sum basis but not on a contingency award basis. Perhaps they should be required to present an account to be taxed off through the courts.

We need to find a solution because next year there won’t be room in the fuel price for another 50 cents RAF levy in the fuel price.

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