JOHANNESBURG - Testimony from medical experts is the backbone of most successful claims against the Road Accident Fund (RAF).
Medical experts provide independent assessment of your injuries and their causes, and of how the injuries have impacted your quality of life and earning ability. In turn, this information helps determine whether claims succeed and the value of compensation that’s awarded.
Kirstie Haslam, partner at DSC Attorneys, offers the following advice:
* It’s essential to keep appointments. To ensure your RAF claim is settled timeously, it’s essential you meet with the relevant doctors and specialists at the scheduled times.
Missed appointments can make it necessary to postpone court dates, in some cases causing delays of 18 months or even longer.
Also, highly qualified specialists who are able and willing to provide expert medical opinions are in short supply and their time is valuable. If you fail to make an appointment, you may be liable for a potentially hefty missed consultation fee - and it could be a struggle to secure another appointment.
* What to tell medico-legal experts. The information you give to medical experts, whether appointed in consultation with your attorney or by the RAF, should be as detailed as possible. Provide an in-depth account of your pain and suffering at the time of the collision and in the weeks and months following the accident.
Also, loss of income is usually key to RAF claims, so be clear about how your injuries have affected your productivity and ability to work, as well as your prospects of getting a promotion, earning a commission or working overtime - now, and in the future.
It’s vital to be truthful, and to give a full and frank account of the accident, your injuries and their impact on your life. Also, be truthful about any injuries or illnesses you had prior to the accident - these may be relevant to the overall assessment of your claim.
* Submit supporting documents to substantiate your claims. Where possible, try and back up your claims with supporting documents, and the contact details of work colleagues and employers who are able to corroborate your claims.
Payslips, financial statements, invoices and written statements from professionals may help demonstrate loss of earnings due to injury caused by a road accident.
In addition, you might consider providing a medical expert with a diary, recording your day-to-day physical, mental and emotional state following the accident. This is a helpful assessment tool that the expert might refer to when writing a report or giving testimony in court.
* Be available to see RAF- appointed experts. The RAF is entitled to instruct its own medical experts to evaluate your injuries and their impact on your personal and professional life.
The RAF is required to give you reasonable notice of a pending appointment. Despite being called upon to attend an assessment at potentially short notice, it’s in your best interests to be available to meet with the RAF-appointed medico-legal consultants.
* Call the experts. An attorney that works on a no-win, no-fee basis with a medico-legal team that has extensive experience in handling road accident claims can give you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. They will assess your claim, help secure expert medical opinions, prepare other supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings.