So much has been delayed and closed during lockdown that it’s easy to think you may have run out of time to make a personal injury claim. That would be a mistake.
If you have a personal injury claim, don’t assume it’s too late. The first step is to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Claim prescription and expiry dates
Prescription is the legal term used to refer to the period of time when a debt (or obligation to pay money) expires. In South Africa, different laws specify different prescription periods.
In certain circumstances, prescription periods may be delayed or interrupted. Look here to read more about different prescription and expiry time limits.
How lockdown affects claims in danger of prescribing
During the National State of Disaster, access to courts, court precincts and justice service points have been restricted to only essential and urgent matters. Fortunately, claims in danger of prescribing were classified as “urgent”. This meant they qualified to be dealt with by the courts – even under the strictest lockdowns (levels four and five) – rather than being put on hold.
The “Directions”, published by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, listed as urgent the:
- service of process relating to claims prescribing (these are claims that arose almost three years ago)
- all time limits imposed by the rules of court, including for the service and filing of court documents, shall be suspended and shall recommence after the termination or lapsing of the period of the National State of Disaster.
The impact of lockdown on processing claims
Inevitably, the lockdown has profoundly affected the processing of claims. Courts have been disrupted and limited to “essential and urgent” matters. Many state offices have closed.
The Road Accident Fund was not deemed an essential service and its offices closed. This delayed an organisation that’s already beset by massive backlogs and financial chaos.
Many other organisations and offices have been closed or working with limited staff, many of whom have been working from home without access to paper documents held in offices.
Inevitably, this has interfered with essential processes needed to make a personal injury claim, such as:
- giving required notice of the intention to claim to an organ of state
- receiving expert medical evaluation
- gathering evidence
- processing witness statements.
The potential for condonation in personal injury claims
Most personal injury claims have to be made within specific time frames. Claims against the state are subject to different rules and limits than claims against an individual or company.
If you’re planning to sue an organ of state – the Minister of Health in the case of a state hospital or the Minister of Police for the SAPS, for example – written notice of your intention to make a claim must be made within six months of an incident occurring.
If there’s a good reason why you or your attorney failed to send this notification, it’s possible to apply to the court for condonation. Condonation allows you to continue with the case even though the official timeframe has elapsed. You need a good reason for the application.
Because of the time limits imposed on claims against the state, it’s important to get in touch with an attorney as soon as after an incident occurs. It’s also vital to use the services of attorneys who are experienced in handling state cases, which have unique characteristics and requirements.
We are aware of the impact of lockdown on personal injury claims, so don’t assume it’s too late to get in touch.
What we offer at DSC Attorneys
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims and our medico-legal team has extensive experience in handling medical malpractice claims.
We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Contact us at DSC Attorneys for the very best legal support and representation. Note that we work on a no win, no fee basis.