The trouble with the RAF - One road accident victim shares her struggle to get her pay-out
It’s been almost six years since “Gugu’s” body was crushed in a car accident‚ leaving her with a limp.
As a State employee based in Johannesburg‚ she asked that her identity not be revealed.
She was a back seat passenger in a car which smashed into a block of flats in downtown Durban in May 2011‚ leaving her with stomach‚ arm‚ heel and knee injuries — which plague her to this day.
She spent six weeks in hospital‚ and has no memory of the first two weeks after her accident.
“Three times the doctors tried to take me off life support‚ and quickly had to restore it when it was clear I couldn’t survive without it‚” she told Times Media.
Today she bears visible scars of her ordeal‚ but prefers to hide the fact that she’s in constant pain‚ especially in winter.
“I’m a positive person‚ so I get on with it‚” she said‚ “but the fact is that my body has lost its stability; my legs swell‚ and when I’m tired‚ I limp.
“According to the medical experts‚ it’s almost certain that I will be forced to take early retirement.”
Soon after her accident‚ Gugu’s orthopaedic surgeon advised her to ask Durban-based RAF attorney Michael Friedman to take on her case.
She was a dream client in that she had meticulously kept records of everything‚ including the names of the police officers who attended the accident scene.
“The RAF didn’t contest or dispute anything‚” she said. “They just didn’t pay.”
And so the case went to court.
Last November when the case was heard in the Durban high court‚ Judge Rashid Vahed ordered the RAF to pay R5‚6 million into Gugu’s attorney’s account as settlement of her claim‚ by December 28‚ plus her legal and medical testimony costs.
Gugu thought her long battle was over. But the money has still not been paid.
“I’m distraught‚” she said. “I thought this was finally over. I made financial decisions based on the expectation of being paid by the end of December.
“It never occurred to me that the Fund would just ignore an order of the high court.”
Friedman told Times Media that the RAF had “defended an indefensible case without giving their attorneys instructions”.
“The case stood down until the second day of the trial and it was only at 3.15pm on that second day that the matter went before a judge to make a decision‚ because no one at the RAF was prepared to do so.
“So the public’s money was wasted on expensive advocates and experts and when it came time for the judge to hand down his order‚ the RAF’s lawyers asked for six months to pay because they have no money.
“But they have plenty of money to litigate recklessly and not settle cases before going to court.”
Asked why no payment had been made in this case‚ despite the high court order‚ the RAF media unit’s response was essentially a poverty plea.
“The RAF respects decisions taken by the courts and is committed to honouring them‚ including the one relating to (Gugu).
“Unfortunately‚ the payment in question is but one of 5‚589 payments that are due to claimants and service providers.
“Despite using all the monthly fuel levy income of about R3 billion to make over 30‚000 payments each month‚ a current balance of R8‚4 billion worth of payments remains queued for payment.”
And that’s not all — more than 1‚000 warrants of execution are received from sheriffs every month‚ more than 3‚000 warrants still queue for payment and it’s common for RAF assets to be attached‚ removed and sold‚ the Fund’s media unit said.
“We recommend that the claimant’s attorney contact the RAF to finalise the terms of this payment.”
Which is what Friedman has been doing. “We don’t get a response.”
And so‚ Gugu’s wait‚ and that of thousands of other South African road accident victims‚ continues.
- Wendy Knowler is ‘In Your Corner’ as Times Media's consumer champion. You can contact her on email: email@example.com or via Twitter: @wendyknowler
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