Pretoria - The sharp eye of a judge has once again picked up a suspicious claim lodged against the Road Accident Fund (RAF).
In this case, a R4 million claim instituted following an alleged road accident simply did not make sense given the facts before the court.
The RAF terminated the services of its panel of attorneys at the end of 2019, and these days, most cases before the courts are not being contested by the entity, as in this case.
This places a huge burden on judges as they have to ensure that everything is in accordance with justice before they make an order as these matters involve public funds.
And so, a Limpopo High Court judge, sitting in Polokwane, immediately smelled a rat when he looked at the court file.
He referred the matter of a woman claiming millions in damages from the RAF back to the entity and asked it to investigate whether it was a genuine claim or not. Judge Maake Kganyago said: “From the minimum evidence placed before court, there is a possibility that this is not a genuine claim, and the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by or arising out of the driving of a motor vehicle.
“However, it is not the duty of this court to investigate whether the injuries were caused by or arising out of the driving of a motor vehicle.”
It was the function of the RAF to ensure that claims lodged with it were properly investigated within the stipulated time period, and that genuine claims were settled, he said. “Courts are required to decide matters on facts placed before it.”
However, the courts will not turn a blind eye to questionable matters that come before it without scrutinising them, especially when the matters are undefended. “When dealing with public funds, a high degree of care is expected from the courts in order to avoid the abuse which may occur as a result of most RAF matters currently being undefended,” the judge said.
The plaintiff, represented by a law firm, instituted an action against the RAF, claiming damages for an alleged motor vehicle accident that occurred in October 2019 in Mankweng in Limpopo. The woman was a passenger and suffered a broken ankle as a result.
She, through her lawyers, claimed R4 350 000 for medical expenses, general damages and loss of income.
The undefended matter was set down for trial, but the judge found some discrepancies relating to the alleged accident.
The first discrepancy was that according to the records, she had been taken to hospital in October 2019. She was complaining that she had missed a step and fell, and sustained an injury to the left ankle, which was swollen. Nowhere was a car accident mentioned.
The second issue of concern was that the accident report was completed three months after the crash, and the SAPS could not issue a sketch plan of the scene. This means the accident site had not been visited.
When the court questioned these issues, the attorney could not answer the judge and, out of the blue, told the court that the client had subsequently fired him.
The judge said the conduct of the attorney after the court had raised these issues with him raised more questions than answers.
The attorney firm has engaged the services of seven expert witnesses whom the judge remarked obviously did not come cheap.
“The alleged termination of the mandate by the plaintiff is questionable as it does not state who will be taking over the file. Under normal circumstances, a termination of mandate will state who will be taking over the file. The termination also happened immediately after the court raised some issues which go to the heart of the validity of the claim.”
The judge added that it seemed the former attorneys realised the problems in this matter and took the shortcut of simply running away from it.
“It does not make sense to simply leave the matter like this after investing so much money in it,” the judge said.