Many people think that attorneys are unnecessary in Road Accident Fund (RAF) claims. Why of course, we are only here to charge exorbitant fees and “steal” the public’s money! This is especially the impression created of late, with The RAF urging cla imants to approach them directly.
The biggest problem with approaching the RAF directly, is that they under-settle cla ims. Most of the time, what you will save in attorney’s legal fees by going to the RAF directly is far outweighed by what you are going to lose by your claim being under-settled. For example, one of our clients was originally offered only R31 000 by the RAF. We managed to obtain an eventual payout of R2.5 million.
We would not, after all, be taking so many matters to court if the RAF was making fair and reasonable offers in the first place. It is thus unfathomable why anyone would want to leave themselves in the hands of the RAF. If you think about it, it is quite a conflicted position for the RAF to find themselves in: on the one hand trying to assist the claimant, and on the other, taking up the usual strategy of the RAF which is to offer less than a case is worth.
Why settle for less when you are entitled to more?
The RAF will also not advise you of the necessary procedure, for example the time period within which you need to issue summons before your claim is lost forever. Nor will they inform you of all the categories of damages you may be entitled to claim. For example, the RAF may provide a reasonable settlement in respect of your pain and suffering and loss of amenities of life, but neglect to tell you that you had a claim for loss of income and medical expenses too. When one considers the lengthy time that it takes to finalise RAF matters, and the legal processes that attorneys must pursue to force them to pay out the money due in terms of a court order, it is inconceivable how a person with no legal experience will succeed! The RAF’s history of not meeting its legal obligation (being the compensation of claimants for loss or damage wrongfully caused by the driving of motor vehicles) was highlighted by the learned Judge Binns-Ward in the case of Daniels & Others v Road Accident Fund & Others:
“That during the last decade the Fund has too often failed to perform in a manner consistent with the realisation of its object of rendering an indispensible service to vulnerable members of society, with resultant prejudice to third party claimants, is evident from the adverse remarks made in a significant number of superior court judgments given during that period … The sorry history suggests that the Fund has turned a deaf ear to repeated judicial enjoinders to comply properly with its statutory obligations, alternatively, that it is materially lacking in effective resources, and that insufficient has been done by government to address the underlying cause or reason for such incapacity.”
Bearing the above in mind, can you really afford not to have an attorney representing your interests?