Prescription periods applicable to claims against the Road Accident Fund
17 September 2020 | Jacques Marais
WHAT DOES PRESCRIPTION MEAN?
Prescription is when a debt arising from a cause of action is extinguished after a determined period of time has elapsed. It is regulated by the Prescription Act 68 of 1969 and starts to run on the day that the debt becomes legally due to be paid. The general prescription period applicable in most cases run for a period of three years.
The prescription periods in relation to Road Accident Fund matters differ somewhat to the general three year prescription period.
It should be noted that in certain circumstances prescription can be delayed or interrupted.
PRESCRIPTION AND THE ROAD ACCIDENT FUND
When determining whether prescription of a claim against the Road Accident Fund has occurred, there are two possible scenarios of which one should be aware being, firstly, identified claims and secondly, unidentified claims.
The Road Accident Fund Act regulates prescription in terms of claims against the Road Accident Fund.
Section 23(1) of the Act reads:
In the case where the identity of either the driver or the owner thereof has been established a claim “shall become prescribed upon the expiry of a period of three years from the date upon which the cause of action arose”.
Section 23(3) further provides that:
“No claim which has been lodged in terms of section 17(4)(a) or 24 shall prescribe before the expiry of a period of five years from the date on which the cause of action arose.”
The effect of Section 23(1) is that where the cause of action arose from an accident where the driver or owner of the vehicle responsible for the accident has been identified, lodgement of a claim with the Road Accident Fund has to take place within a period of three years after the cause of action arose.
Section 23(3) extends the prescription period by two additional years within which Summons has to be issued against the Road Accident Fund if the claim has not become settled after the initial lodgement.
UNIDENTIFIED CLAIMS (HIT AND RUN CLAIMS):
In matters where neither the identity of the driver nor the owner of the motor vehicle can be established, a claim has to be lodged with the Road Accident Fund within two years of the date upon which the cause of action arose.
After the two year period has lapsed, prescription is extended by a further three years within which Summons has to be issued if the claim has not been settled.
INSTANCES WHERE PRESCRIPTION IS DELAYED OR INTERRUPTED
The Road Accident Fund Act makes provision for instances where prescription does not necessarily start to run on the date of the cause of action:
- In matters where a minor has a claim against the Road Accident Fund and where the driver or owner of the vehicle has been identified, prescription only starts to run on the day that the minor reaches the age of majority.
The above does not apply to unidentified claims irrespective of the fact that the claimant is a minor. In these circumstances, the claim must be lodged within two years from the date of the accident in order to avoid the claim prescribing.
- Where a person is detained as a patient in terms of any mental health legislation and
c) Prescription is delayed where a person is under Curatorship.