Every year the silly season gets deadly serious on our roads, and this year it’s likely to be more fatal than ever.
Over 1,600 people died on the roads during last year’s festive season. And this year, Covid-19 will probably mean they will be busier than ever, as less people are keen to fly and will opt to drive to their holiday destinations instead.
There were 2 915 arrests during the 2019/2020 festive season and 48% of those (1 397 drivers) were arrested for drunk driving. More cars this year will mean more drunk drivers and more road deaths.
If you are one of the unfortunate ones who gets caught up in a road accident, you need to know what to do, especially if you want to claim compensation for personal injury or damage to your vehicle.
“It’s important to follow a few simple steps to ensure that the situation can be resolved as easily as possible,” says partner at DSC Attorneys, Kirstie Haslam.
Here’s Kirstie’s checklist of what to do.
Immediately after an accident:
1. Stop your vehicle safely. If you’re involved in an accident that causes injury or the death of a person or animal, or that causes damage to someone else’s property, you are required by law to stop your vehicle. Make sure you slow down and stop safely, out of the way of traffic.
2. Assess the nature and extent of any injury sustained or damage caused. If someone has been seriously injured, contact emergency services and the police.
3. Don’t move your vehicle unless it’s a safety hazard to other road users. If your vehicle is obstructing traffic, it may be moved sufficiently to allow vehicles to pass. However, you may move the vehicle only once you’ve marked the vehicle’s original position with chalk, spray paint or other clear markings.
4. Stay at the scene of the accident. It’s a criminal offence to leave the scene of an accident in which someone is injured unless you yourself need to go for help. Otherwise you’re required to remain on the scene until a police officer tells you that you may leave.
5. Get the details of the other drivers and vehicles involved in the accident. You’ll need these details to claim from insurance or the Road Accident Fund (RAF). Record the other drivers’ names, identity numbers, telephone numbers, vehicle registration numbers and any other relevant information. If a driver was driving a vehicle on behalf of an employer, record the details of the employer as well.
6. Get contact details of any witnesses on the scene. You may need witness testimonies to support your claim, so write down the names and phone numbers of all potential witnesses to the accident.
7. Record the details of the accident and, if possible, take photos. Take pictures and draw sketches of the scene of the accident. Note the weather and road conditions when the accident occurred. If possible, photograph the scene and surrounding area from all angles, as well as any injuries you’ve sustained. Also note the details of any damage to property.
8. If your vehicle needs to be towed, contact your insurance company before agreeing to let a company tow the vehicle. Also, never sign any blank forms that the towing company provides. Unscrupulous tow companies may take advantage of you in this situation. Be sure to remove all valuables before your vehicle is towed.
After leaving the scene of the accident:
If you have been injured, Kirstie says you should consult a doctor immediately.
“Even if your injuries appear fairly minor, it’s a good idea to have a doctor examine you. Adrenaline after an accident can mask injuries, and some issues, like swelling, may occur only over time.
“If you intend to claim compensation for your injuries, it’s important that you consult a medical practitioner as soon after the accident as possible. You will need medical reports to support your claim,” she says.
If you haven’t done so already, you should report the accident to the police.
“If someone has been killed or injured in the accident, you must report it to the police within 24 hours,” Kirstie advises. “If no person was injured or killed, you must report the accident on the first working day following the collision.”
She suggests recording the name of the police officer who filed your report and keeping a note of the accident report’s reference number. You’ll need these details when claiming from your insurer, the other driver’s insurance company, or the RAF.
Make sure you keep any potential evidence, as well as medical records and receipts associated with the accident.
“If you plan to claim damages, don’t discard torn or blood-stained clothing, or any of your notes regarding the accident,” Kirstie says. “Also ensure you keep copies of medical records and any receipts for medical treatment.”
If you are planning to claim for damage to your vehicle or think other drivers might want to do it, contact your insurance provider with the details as soon after the accident as possible.
Anyone seriously injured in an accident on South Africa’s roads, including drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, can claim compensation from the RAF.
“Victims of road accidents can claim for medical expenses, loss of earnings and, in cases involving serious injury, general damages for pain and suffering,” Kirstie says. “If a breadwinner in your family is killed in a road accident, you can claim for loss of support and funeral costs.”
Kirstie adds that accident victims may also want to seek legal representation from a reputable firm.
“A good personal injury attorney can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve, working on a no-win, no-fee basis,” she says.