If you have been injured in a road accident, it can be difficult to know if you can be compensated. If you were in a crash that wasn’t only your fault, you might be entitled to claim damages from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).
You can claim for the following from the RAF:
- Your past medical expenses for the accident
- Your past loss of income
- General damages
- Your future medical expenses
- Your future loss of income
A further category that you can claim is for “general damages for pain and suffering”. To claim this, you have to prove that your injury is “serious” and must meet specific criteria laid out by the RAF. A personal injury lawyer can help you with this.
How they will assess your claim
When you speak to a personal injury lawyer, they will ask you a series of questions. They will ask about the extent of your injuries and get a sense of the impact it has had on your life and work.
To support your claim, you then have to be examined by a medical professional. Reputable personal injury lawyers work closely with medical specialists who are responsible for making a serious injury assessment. Your personal injury lawyer will refer you to their team of specialists.
These experienced medical professionals assess your injuries and recovery over 18 months. They track your recovery, and when they feel you’ve reached your maximum medical improvement, they will write their report. It means they believe you have reached the point where your condition will not get any better.
They then compile a Serious Injury Assessment Report (an RAF 4 report) for the RAF. This report confirms that your injury is serious enough to warrant compensation. Their report will include their opinion on how your injury will affect your ability to perform tasks needed for your work, for example. Their assessment will be based on the American Medical Association guidelines in the Guides (AMA Guides) to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
Will the RAF consider your injury to be “serious”?
The AMA Guides uses a formula to determine the extent of an injured person. It is called Whole Person Impairment (WPI) and is used to calculate your level of permanent impairment. The RAF accepts claims that qualify according to these guidelines.
In South Africa, the rate for determining serious injury is set at 30%. This means that they must assess a road accident victim as being 30% WPI to qualify for an award of general damages.
If an injury does not meet the 30% WPI calculation, the medical professional could still apply a different assessment guide. It is called a narrative test. This is used when they cannot apply the AMA Guides assessment, such as losing an unborn child or a victim has severe disfigurement, a behavioural disorder and other long-term impairments resulting from a crash that they were not solely responsible for.
How a personal injury lawyer can help
Every case is unique, which is why it’s best to consult a personal injury lawyer with knowledge and experience to get their professional opinion on what compensation you have a right to claim.
When they assess if you have a right to compensation for a serious injury, they will consider how your injury has affected your ability to work. The WPI may be only 5%, but if it has had a severe impact on your life, you could still claim compensation.
Let’s take a look at a real-life case. “Adendorff Attorneys was able to assist a client with over R5 million compensation from the RAF. They had a seriously broken leg as a result of an accident because he could not perform his work duties anymore,” explains personal injury lawyer Jurie Terblanche.
How does this work? “If your work requires you to be on your feet all day, you need to work pain-free in those conditions. But if an accident leads to a toe amputation, for example, it would qualify as a serious injury because of the impact on your ability to work,” explains Jurie.
However, if you were a lawyer and an accident causes you to have your leg removed below the knee, it wouldn’t be considered serious by the RAF, he continues. “You could have a prosthetic fitted that would enable you to continue working and wouldn’t affect your earnings,” he explains.
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Adendorff Attorneys has over 20 years of experience helping victims with claims for compensation against the Road Accident Fund.