Letter to De Rebus Appointment of Chief Justice

Our reference:  MR L.M. KOBRIN

Your reference:  

Date:  27th October 2013

The Editor
De Rebus
Pretoria                       PER E MAIL

Dear Sir


On 29th August 2013, the current Chief Executive Officer of the Road Accident Fund Dr Eugene Watson was interviewed by John Robbie on his early morning breakfast slot on 702 Talk Radio. In the interview, Dr Watson encouraged Road Accident Victims to lodge their claims for compensation against the Fund for injuries sustained in motor accidents, directly with the Fund rather than to use Attorneys and other intermediaries to do this on their behalf. He claimed to be in possession of statistics which demonstrated that those who do lodge their claims directly find that the turn-around time from the date of lodgment until the date of payment of the award was six months as opposed to cases where Attorneys lodge claims the turn-around time from the date of lodgment to date of payment is much longer – several years to finalise.

I am reliably informed that Dr Watson has made the self- same claim and appeal in other forms of the media on other occasions. After the airing of this interview I communicated with Dr Watson on this issue and he responded very swiftly to me as follows and I quote verbatim:

“Thank you for your email Les

You are correct. We can indeed process direct claims more efficiently.

There may be instances where this does not materialise, but I am sure you would also note how litigated cases do from time to time run for particularly long periods and with expensive additional costs. Similarly, you will agree that there are also instances where despite the litigation the ultimate settlement is not far from what the Fund estimated.”

Now I have no reason to doubt either the sincerity with which Dr Watson made his statements or the accuracy of his statement. In fact in sharp contrast to experiences I have had with Dr Watson’s predecessor, I have experienced that he is sincere in his wish to tighten the administration of the Fund and is ever keen to ensure that his Staff attend to their duties appropriately and competently. However, I respectfully suggest his statement is flawed for the following reasons:-

  1. Under the provisions of the Road Accident Fund Act as it now exists, general damages are only paid to those who have sustained a serious injury. In a large number of these cases this assessment, which must be made under the present guidelines laid down in the regulations to the Act, can only be made when the patient has achieved maximum medical improvement. In serious injuries where patients have suffered head injuries a Patient can only be said to have achieved maximum medical improvement some two to three years after the accident. These cases therefore cannot be brought to finality within the six month period of time espoused by Dr Watson;

  2. The impression gained from the information conveyed by Dr Watson is that the cases where claims are lodged by Attorneys are deliberately delayed by these very Attorneys. I respectfully suggest to Dr Watson, that within the last two months two of my cases which came up for Trial in the South Gauteng High Court in the last two months were settled on the day of the Trial at roll call in the amount claimed in our Particulars of Claim. Now the average time it takes once summons is served until Trial varies from eighteen months to two years during which time pleadings are exchanged pre-trial conferences are held and Counsel is engaged. If these two claims were settled in the amounts claimed when summons was served at least eighteen months of needless waiting for these victims would have been avoided and this says nothing about the costs which the Fund now have to pay in respect of the Plaintiff’s costs and to its own Attorneys.

  3. I have just concluded a case in which our Client Mr M was seriously injured in a motor accident in 2005. He lodged his claim directly with the Road Accident Fund and was promised by Officials in the employ of the Fund. He was referred to our firm at the end of 2010 when he complained that nothing had materialised in response to the claim he lodged. On investigation it was found that the Officials of the Fund did nothing to administer the claim and allowed it to become prescribed in that summons was not issued within the five year period from the date of the accident. We issued summons against the Fund basing Mr M’S claim on the basis that the Fund was in breach of its own obligation to administer the claim and negligently allowed it to prescribe. Interestingly enough the Fund’s Attorneys filed a Special Plea in which it claimed that because summons claiming compensation from it had not been issued within five years from the date of the accident, Mr M was precluded from continuing the claim on the grounds it had prescribed. We took an Exception upon receipt of which the Fund withdrew its Special Plea. The Action came up for Trial before the South Gauteng High Court during the course of the last week. On the day of Trial at the doors of the Court the Fund settled the matter by agreeing to make payment of Mr M’S claim of R900 000.00. Had Mr M not sought legal advice the claim which he lodged directly with the Fund in 2005 would have not been paid.

I respectfully suggest that the legal profession has a vital role in assisting Road Accident victims in obtaining a just compensation for their injuries from the Road Accident Fund. It is with extreme regret that when the Road Accident Benefit Scheme legislation is promulgated in to Law, the legal profession will no longer be able to continue providing this essential service which will be to the ultimate prejudice of Road Accident Victims.

 Yours faithfully


Mr Kobrin's direct e mail
Mr Kobrin's direct fax number 0865622104


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