The Herald E-Edition

Young Bay woman in marathon R11.4m battle with RAF

● Accident victim struggles to get fund to honour settlement agreement

Devon Koen

More than eight years after a matric pupil was severely injured in a horror car crash, her family is still fighting for the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to make good on the more than R11m settlement to which it initially agreed.

RAF chief executive Collins Letsoalo has since become personally involved in the protracted battle playing out in the Gqeberha high court.

In court papers dated May 13 2021, the RAF asked the court to set aside a June 2020 order awarding the young woman R11.4m in damages because Letsoalo had not signed off on the offer at the time.

According to RAF regulations, only Letsoalo has the authority to sign off on offers of compensation totalling more than R10m.

The fund said Letsoalo had not approved the offer, stating that “the required approval process which was not followed prior to the granting of the court order renders the order constitutionally invalid”.

The RAF had initially agreed to pay R600,000 to the young woman, who was left with lifelong injuries on April 22 2015, when the car she was travelling in collided with two others on the M17 near Swartkops.

It is alleged the accident was caused mainly due to negligence on the part of one or all the drivers.

The young woman was rushed to Dora Nginza Hospital and then transferred to Livingstone.

She suffered, among other injuries, severe scarring to her right arm, leg, wrist, side of her face, traumatic brain injury, multiple fractured ribs, internal bleeding, injury to both her eyes, and a spinal injury.

As a result she was placed on mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit and had to be strapped to the bed to keep her from trying to leave the hospital.

The Herald has opted not to name the woman, who was eventually discharged on May 29 2015.

Medical reports detail how she continues to suffer from anxiety attacks, emotional and psychological distress, headaches, aggressive and moody behaviour, is paranoid, hears voices, has memory loss and is no longer active.

Unhappy with the R600,000 settlement offer, her relatives approached attorney Lunen Meyer, who took the matter to court with a claim of R19.5m.

The RAF then agreed to pay her R11.4m.

On June 18 2020, an order was made by the high court for settlement in that amount.

However, the fund never released the money and brought an application for the court order to be set aside.

The matter was then taken to case flow management in an effort to speed up the process.

In December last year, after numerous postponements, Eastern Cape deputy judgepresident David van Zyl ordered that an interim payment of R1m be made to the woman.

Meyer had also, meanwhile, brought various applications for further documentary evidence to be supplied by the RAF on the claim that Letsoalo had never authorised the offer.

In March, Van Zyl directed Letsoalo to file an affidavit explaining in detail why the RAF had failed or refused to comply with directions concerning pretrial agendas and responses, and to make the interim payment.

Van Zyl further ordered that Letsoalo provide reasons why he should not be directed to pay the costs associated with the matter out of his own pocket.

Letsoalo had been ordered to file his affidavit no later than April 25, or to appear in court in person.

But in an affidavit dated May 10, Letsoalo did an about-turn and confirmed that he had, in fact, authorised the offer.

According to Letsoalo, his authorisation had come with conditions, though he did not stipulate what the conditions were. He claimed that confusion arose between himself and his subordinates due to an increased workload.

Letsoalo further claimed that he was unaware he had to file an affidavit or attend an April 26 case flow management meeting, saying he had not received an email to this effect.

“I will have to investigate why the directives were not brought to my attention and ensure consequence management where it is found there is any dereliction on the part of any RAF functionary.”

Letsoalo said it would not be appropriate for him to be held liable for the costs in the case flow management process.

“All my actions regarding this matter were in good faith and in line with what is expected of me in terms of the RAF regulations, internal processes and procedures, as well as the Public Finance Management Act.

“A cost order against me is unwarranted,” Letsoalo said.

The court ordered last month that an additional interim amount of R3m be paid to the victim. The case was postponed to March 25 next year for trial at the RAF’s request.

Meyer said his client continued to suffer, and was not able to afford the care and treatment she desperately needed.

RAF spokesperson Linda Rulashe had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.

Meyer said his client continued to suffer, and was not able to afford the care and treatment she desperately needed

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