Pretoria - Short-changed by the Road Accident Fund (RAF) nearly eight years ago when he was paid out R38 000 following a serious car accident, a Soshanguve man on Monday received nearly R1.5 million after a city law firm took up the cudgels for him.
Frans Mabitsi was a teenager when the accident happened in 2003. He heard from a friend that one could claim directly from the RAF following an accident. He did so, with the help of his mother.
When the RAF told the pair that the best they could do was to settle his claim by paying him R38 000 in damages, they reluctantly accepted.
“I did not know better as I did not know my rights, nor the law. Nor did my mother. We were told by the RAF that it was in fact a good settlement,” Mabitsi told the Pretoria News on Monday
Although the fund at first opposed the latest challenge against it in the Pretoria High Court in which Mabitsi’s lawyer claimed R1.48m, the RAF on Monday agreed to settle the claim.
This was made an order of court by Pretoria Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba. The fund will also foot Mabitsi’s legal bill.
“I am so happy justice has now been done in the correct manner, because I felt done-in all these years. I accepted the settlement years ago, because I was told it was the best they could do for me. I was not happy, but I didn’t know what else to do,” Mabitsi said.
Only after Mabitsi heard from another family member, who was also in a car accident years later, that he should have received much more, did he turn to the firm Van Zyl Le Roux Inc. The law firm realised that the matter had been under-settled and and went to court on Mabitsi’s behalf.
He was 18 when he was run over by a speeding motorist in Lotus Gardens. Mabitsi suffered head and leg injuries and was in hospital for weeks. Due to his injuries he was not able to work and is still without a job.
In the latest round against the RAF, Mabitsi stated in court papers that he genuinely believed the RAF would have his best interests at heart, as this was part of its mandate. But the fund had broken its mandate and not acted in his best interests, he said.
Defending its actions, the fund denied any wrongdoing or that it owed Mabitsi a cent more.
The court was told that the accident was due to the negligence of Mabitsi, who it claimed walked in front of the oncoming car.
It also objected to the claim on a technical basis, saying it was too late, as the summons had been sent three years too late. But the court allowed Mabitsi to institute the claim outside the timeframe.
Mabitsi said he was going to use the money to build his mother a house. He will invest some of the cash and use the rest to obtain his matric.
A lawyer specialising in RAF matters and who did not want to be identified, said the RAF embarked on road shows at which it claimed “it serves the people”, but the bottom line was that the fund would always place its own interests first.
“They say they are cash-strapped. They will thus award as little as possible, as the RAF (in cases where people directly approach them) is the judge of its own court. This case is just a drop in the ocean. There are many others in a similar position,” he said.
The lawyer said he had a case of a quadriplegic who at first also directly claimed damages from the fund but for two years had not heard a word from the RAF. “First consult a legal expert before accepting an offer,” he said.