Pretoria – A high court judge has given the Road Accident Fund a severe tongue-lashing for “defending matters which are not defensible and thus not only wasting its resources, but also those of the court”.
The RAF was also accused by the court of “thumb-sucking” the damages for a road accident victim in an offer it made in a damages claim.
Ruan Krohn, 22, a boilermaker from Kuruman in the Northern Cape, claimed more than R3 million in damages after a car accident. He was a passenger in one of the vehicles involved in the crash. He suffered severe brain damage as a result of the collision.
Medical experts were called to testify on his behalf about his injuries. The RAF did not call a single expert, yet it disputed the claim, which meant the matter had to go to trial.
A neurosurgeon confirmed that Krohn had suffered severe brain injuries, and thus developed epilepsy. He could not drive a car or work in an environment where he could be injured should he suffer a seizure.
Acting Judge TS Madima said the RAF did not provide the court with a single witness or expert report of its own.
The parties managed to settle some of the claims, including general damages amounting to about R1 million. However, they could not agree on his future loss of income arising from the fact that he would no longer be able to work. All the experts agreed he was not suited to his present position and was on the brink of dismissal.
According to the experts, Krohn would have difficulty finding other work, and R3.2 million for future loss of income was not an unrealistic amount. The RAF offered R1.9 million, saying it was a “fair and reasonable offer” offer. But the judge said the RAF did not even offer an explanation for its offer.
“I take this tender as a thumb-suck,” the judge said.
He said there was no legal basis on which it could be argued that this amount was fair and reasonable.
“It may well be, but we shall never know,” he said. “I find it most disturbing that the defendant, despite defending this action, had not appointed experts to counter the experts of the plaintiff.
“Such experts would have offered balance to the dispute and afforded the court an alternative view. The non-appointment of experts by the defendant points to only one conclusion – that the defendant did not have any basis to defend this matter. It should have conceded the merits and quantum without wasting the court’s time and resources.”
He granted Krohn more than R3 million in damages.
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