An ethico-legal study on delays of Road Accident Fund Assessments in a practice in SA

Kommal, Terrence Omdutt
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Road accidents affect both economically active members of our society and other citizens. Free markets, in particular, the private sector, do not address the impact of road accidents on society and the economy. The Road Accident Fund’s (RAF) mission is to provide appropriate cover to all road users within the borders of South Africa; to rehabilitate persons injured; compensate for injuries or death; and indemnify wrongdoers as a result of motor vehicle accidents in a timely, caring and sustainable manner. RAF Act, allows for 120 days within which to decide on the outcomes of valid claims. As detailed in the RAF’s Annual Reports and in various court judgements, this is not the case. Mixed methods were used in this research, which included an ethico-legal normative and empirical components. The normative ethics and legal frameworks were discussed and analysed. Delays in assessments of the victims of road accidents were evaluated in terms of the normative principles of medical ethics, namely: Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-maleficence, Justice, and Ubuntu. The empirical component was descriptive; quantitative and qualitative. The records of 385 patients from a practice, Ayush Healthcare, in Pretoria were analysed to ascertain the delays in their assessments and their primary injuries. Most of the patients have suffered significant delays in their assessments, ranging from is 143 to 3898 working days. Tibia and fibula injuries were the most prevalent (16.62%), followed by head injuries (15.84%). The resulting delays in assessments in the hands of the RAF and considerations of fair compensation have led to significant delays in accessing healthcare, treatment, rehabilitation, pain relief, financial compensation, and a disrespect of the four principles of biomedical ethics, which are autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Furthermore, Ubuntu was infringed upon, both from a community and self-realisation perspective.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment for the requirements of the degree of Master of Science in Medicine (Bioethics and Health Law) to the Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Clinical Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022