A claim against the Road Accident Fund is made up of many parts, and to most people the part that is probably known the best is what lawyers call general damages and what most people would understand as being money for pain and suffering. This is an amount of money that you are given for the pain and suffering that you have gone through and it is based on case law handed down by our judges over the years. Putting it very bluntly, you would generally receive an amount similar to that amount which somebody else received in the past for a similar injury, noting that the amounts in South Africa are not as high as in countries such as the United States. You can suffer horrendous injuries in South Africa and still not even get R1 million, and the vast majority of cases are settled below R50 000. The most common type of injury, is probably the whiplash injury, and there the awards, for pain and suffering, would generally range from about R28 000 to R100 000 again, dependent on the nature of the injury itself, how severe it is, the treatment you have had, and the effect it had on your life. So, as this example illustrates, even the same injury can have different awards and the fact that you've had a previous claim, or neck problem for example, may also affect your award. Again, it really does require the assistance of an attorney to help you as we have come across cases involving brain injury, where the Road Accident Fund have offered R35 000 and the case has ultimately been settled for R1,2 million!
As you can imagine, it is all rather complex, and while some people try to save money in the form of legal costs, by claiming against the Road Accident Fund themselves, they normally do themselves an extreme disservice in doing so as the Road Accident Fund is not really equipped to not only defend your claim, but also to represent you against itself!
What decides what is a big claim and what is not in most claims is the question of loss of income which can of course be huge. This again depends entirely on the injury you suffer and what your job beforehand. In the classic example, that is given time and time again, a lawyer who loses a small finger may not have suffered a life ruining, or rather job ruining injury, but that same injury to a pianist may indeed be the end of a career - or for example, to the secretary, may reduce greatly her typing speeds and effectiveness. At times like that, attorneys would step in and see, for example, whether or not voice dictation software is good enough for that secretary to maybe maintain at least 70% of her effectiveness and through the obtaining of reports from various experts including: occupational therapists, industrial psychologists, orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, the attorneys will delve into that particular person's life, lifestyle and present the case to the Road Accident Fund and if need be, to a court. You also have a claim for past medical expenses and that is normally quite simple, you keep a record of all of your accounts that are related to the accident and your attorney claims them back from the Road Accident Fund.
More complex than that is the question of future medical expenses and this is ascertained by your attorney referring you to a number of specialists who will prepare what are known as medico-legal reports on you, and will anticipate what sort of treatment you will need in the future, ranging from conservative treatment such as physiotherapy all the way through to actual surgery.