The Marvel of the Human Spirit: The story of Nathi

Nathi is 37 years old. His life has not been easy. He grew up very poor in Gugulethu, his mother being a domestic worker who never had the opportunity to be educated. His father left them at an early age. At the time they were living with 12 other people in one home. Fortunately, Nathi is also an entrepreneur and an optimist and began a ginger beer brewery and making vetkoek from home to help keep his family afloat. Every morning, he would get up early to prepare the dough before going to school. Later, he expanded his bakery to include scones and muffins and worked extremely hard to establish a business that he could hand over to his sister. His grandfather was his mentor: he never studied but worked as an engineer for Chrysler. This motivated Nathi to work hard at school. When he turned 14, he was afforded the opportunity to become an exchange student in London. He remained there after he completed his schooling. His early passion for baking led him to attend the hotel school at the Marriot in Oxford and pursue a career as a professional chef. He has since worked all around the world in their various hotels, allowing him to care for his family back home. He was also able to pay for his brother to attend university and saved enough money to build himself a new home in South Africa.   Life was going well until his mom received a cancer diagnosis. His mom, brother, elder sister, two nieces and nephews are all financially dependent on him, which meant there wasn’t a worse time for an accident to happen.   In 2017 Nathi had a family reunion in Blue Downs which he also attended to prepare the food. After the reunion, he transported people back to their homes and was involved in a head-on collision with another car that was driving on the wrong side of the road. The driver of the other vehicle was under the influence of alcohol. Nathi was unconscious and later woke up in Tygerberg Hospital with abrasions to his forehead, several bone and knee fractures, a rib fracture, lung contusion, as well as various bruises and abrasions. He could not feel his legs and he couldn’t speak. He was aware of his mother praying for him next to his bed. She needed him to help her to fight her cancer.   While he was hospitalised he lodged a claim directly at the Road Accident Fund through Tygerberg Hospital. He was however alerted to the importance of legal representation to ensure appropriate compensation and heard that Simpsons were experts in this field. She referred him to Simpsons Attorneys where Kimberley Ross handled his matter.   His recovery took long and he was wheelchair bound, becoming very despondent at times. His 79-year old aunt looked after him while he was rehabilitating. It was during this time that he believes he received a visit from the spirits of his ancestors which motivated him to fight. He asked his brother, an alcoholic, to sober up and push his wheelchair to the clinic so he could receive the physiotherapy he required to recover and work again.   During this time, he also decided to study financial auditing through CPUT. He now wants to become a teacher to inspire other children who grew up in disadvantaged communities.   Through the efforts of Simpsons Attorneys, Nathi has recently been awarded R1.6 million from the Road Accident Fund which will enable him to pay for his studies, settle his debt and buy himself and his family some of the things he didn’t have when he grew up.   Says Nathi about Kimberley, his attorney: “She is an amazing woman, she always listened to me. Simpsons Attorneys also helped me to bury my aunt while I was waiting for my money to be paid”. Nathi says the successful claim has changed his life and he also forgave the people who caused the accident. He paid thanks to his grandfather and grandmother by erecting tombstones for them in the Eastern Cape after receiving his settlement.

The Road Accident Fund claim process: why it takes so long

If you have had the misfortune of being injured in a road accident through no fault of your own, you should be entitled to claim compensation from the Road Accident Fund. However, this can be a long and arduous process requiring patience and full engagement to follow through to the hopeful end result. There are a number of steps you will need to complete for your application to be successful – the first being to obtain the services of a reputable attorney with experience in taking and tracking your claim through the process.

Step One. Your first consultation:

  1. Your attorney will conduct a thorough consultation at the outset in order to collect important information.
  2. You must provide the attorney with full details of the accident:
    • Date / Time / Place
    • a merits assessment (a completed affidavit that details your version of events)
    • details of any injuries and treatment to date, including relevant medical history, and proof of medical expenses to date.
    • proof of income and employment history
    • a copy of identity documentation
    • photos of the vehicle damage (where relevant), scene of the accident and/or injuries.
  3. During this first consultation your attorney will explain the various steps in the process, and will also fully explain their responsibilities and fee agreement. Once signed, a copy will be provided for your records.
  4. You will need to keep your attorney abreast of any changes to your contact details, any health changes, as well as updates on further treatment and any further medical costs that need to be included in the claim.

Step Two. Requests for documents:

  1. Your attorney will then request further documents that will be required in order to lodge the matter with the Road Accident Fund.
  2. The most important document is the RAF 1 form. This must be completed by your medical practitioner or the hospital that treated you after the accident.
  3. If death and subsequent loss of support is an aspect of the claim, then a post-mortem report must be provided. Once these documents are received, along with the affidavit, identity documents/birth certificates, and other supporting documentation, your attorney can lodge a valid claim with the RAF.
  4. Where possible, it is also a good idea to include further documents, such as: the accident report and a copy of the police docket (where available); proof of income; proof of medical expenses.
  5. In the case of loss of support, further documents will be required. These must include: the death certificate; proof of funeral expenditure; as well as proof of the duty of support, ie: marriage certificate if applicable, or alternatively 3 affidavits from family / friends of the deceased confirming such a duty; unabridged birth certificates of minors.

Step Three. Lodgement of the claim:

  1. Once lodged, there is a waiting time by law of 120 days. This gives the Road Accident Fund time to consider the matter and make an offer – or request further documentation.
  2. At this point the attorney will re-consult with you, as by this time you will have had some time to recover from the devastation of the accident. It is important to follow up and re-assess the injuries (physical and/or psychological). Appropriate experts will be called upon to provide professional opinions in order to determine the long term effect of the claim, ie: future medical expenses/loss of income/support and/or general damages.
  3. The experts will only assess your condition at least 1-year post-accident. This is in order to ensure that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).

Step Four. Litigation:

  1. After expiry of the 120 day period, and if no offer has been received, your attorney will issue summons against the Road Accident Fund.
  2. The RAF will usually defend the matter and file a plea setting out the reasons for their defence.
  3. Upon receipt of this plea (approximately 30 business days after serving the summons), your attorney will apply for  a trial date.
  4. It currently takes at least 2 years to receive a case management date in the High Court. Case management is a process you need to go through in order to have the matter certified for trial. Essentially it is a Judge who ensures that a matter is not capable of settlement and is trial ready.
  5. Once a matter is certified as trial ready, it takes approximately 6 months before your court date.

Step Five: Settlement and finalisation:

A court date is there as a backup in the event that a matter is not settled. Remember, a settlement can be reached at any stage of the process. Any offers received will be discussed with you as to whether the offer should be accepted, or whether litigation should be continued to obtain a better result. You should always be assured that your attorney is working with your best interests at heart.

Simpsons Attorneys

At Simpsons, we ensure that all persons are able to receive the advice and support they need. Specialising in personal injury claims resulting from motor vehicle accidents, medical negligence and product and public liability, we care about our clients, focusing on personal considerations as well as facts and procedural knowledge. The law must take its course – but it must do so within egalitarian rules promoting fairness and accessibility for all. To find out more about Simpsons, please visit: www.simpsons.co.za
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