In terms of the new laws, there are no limits on passengers’ claims, although they don’t qualify for much compensation either. In terms of the old Road Accident Fund Act, a passenger’s claim was limited to R25 000,00. A recent judgment has held that this limit is unconstitutional and the matter will now no doubt be taken on appeal by the Road Accident Fund.
am quite sure that they will be unsuccessful, and it is something I reported in my legal newsletter more than a year ago, and placed on record at that time that my firm had taken the same point in pleadings in a number of our bigger passenger cases but which unfortunately the defendants either had not picked up or reacted to. In other words, we have pleaded that the limit is unconstitutional, in a number of our bigger cases, for the last year or so with the intent of taking this matter to the Constitutional Court. I am only sorry that other attorneys will get there first!
It seems a lot of attorneys have always been reluctant to bring a challenge on this basis, thinking that the Constitutional Court had heard this case before, whereas they always confuse the fact that a Johannesburg firm at that time brought a challenge based on the new Constitution, but for a case that had happened before the new Constitution came into effect in 1994. The Constitutional Court rejected their argument largely on the basis that the legislation could not be retrospective and it appears that leading firms of attorneys took this to mean that the passenger case limit was valid when in fact clearly it was not.
In any event, there is some way to go still, with the case being heard, but attorneys should not settle any substantial cases, that exceed the R25 000,00 limit, before this matter is finalised, as I warned in an article in my newsletter at www.legalnewsletter.co.za a year ago.