Millions injured on road - know your options

2016-12-14 06:02

Sunday, 20 November was World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. It saw wreaths laid, ceremonies held, policies discussed and awareness campaigns implemented across the globe.

The macro-economic cost of motor vehicle accidents was lamented and the many thousands of people in the medical and emergency services sectors, who serve as first responders, were praised.

By far, the most poignant reflection about the day though, is the fact that 1.3 million people die annually in road collisions worldwide - loved ones, breadwinners, real lives, actual people.

Additionally, there are millions more injured annually, many to the point of permanent disability and therefore unable to provide financially any longer for themselves and their dependants.

In South Africa, we are privileged to have an extensive, and for the most part, excellent road network, certainly on a par with much of the developed world. This results in a high vehicle density on our roads which in turn leads to a high domestic vehicle collision rate.

Thankfully, we also have one of the most developed facilities for the compensation of victims of road collisions anywhere in the world, facilities which are supported by a profound legal system.

Huge resources and efforts are made to keep roads free of accidents, but the hard reality is that while accidents persist, there is a critical need for victims to be compensated. Our Road Accident Fund (RAF) endeavours to do just that.

The RAF is funded by a percentage of the revenue derived from fuel sales, which serves a purpose similar to that of the premiums one would pay on an insurance policy. All people who suffer loss as a result of injuries (or death) suffered by a person in a vehicle accident have the right to claim from the RAF, subject of course to certain narrow exclusions and limitations, like is the case in all insurances.

Interesting features of our system include:

• the victim, (also known as a claimant or plaintiff) may choose to go to the RAF directly or use the services of an attorney, many of whose fees are recoverable from the RAF if the claim is successful;

• the claimant has the right to prosecute the claim through the courts where no agreement has been reached with the RAF;

• the claimant is paid a lump sum for general damages which includes pain, loss of the amenities of life, disability and disfigurement in cases where the injuries are above a certain level of severity. This lump sum is determined by referring to decided court cases and is dependent on the nature of the injuries;

• the claimant is entitled to compensation for medical expenses related to the injuries sustained in the collision - past, present and future. Linked to this would be a right to claim for the costs of prosthetics, caregivers and even alterations to homes in certain cases where the disability demands it;

• the claimant may claim for loss of income because of temporary or permanent inability to work and his or her dependants can claim as well. The dependants may also claim in the case where a breadwinner has been killed in a collision; and

• many funeral expenses are also recoverable. There are many linked experts who help prove and quantify a claim, all working together on very strict time lines.

Additionally many attorneys specialise in these kinds of cases and therefore have a broad network of medical and other experts available to supplement their work.

Many attorneys would be prepared to work on a “no win, no fee” or a contingency fee basis. Claimant’s would be entitled to negotiate these terms with an attorney.

The RAF may also be contacted directly for assistance. Drive safely.

Jeremy Diedricks Diedricks Attorneys Inc. director

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