Even if you have a valid personal injury claim and plenty of evidence to support it, the claim will come to nought if the time limit for pursuing it is exceeded.
Also known as prescription periods, these time limits vary depending on the type of claim you have, so it’s wise to get advice from a suitably qualified attorney.
In this article, we provide an overview of time limits on different types of personal injury claims in South Africa, along with some of the exceptions that apply.
Claims against the Road Accident Fund
The Road Accident Fund (RAF) is responsible for compensating road accident victims and their dependents. However, claims against the RAF still carry a prescription period.
Claims against the RAF must generally be submitted within three years of the date of the accident in question.
The following exceptions apply to claims against the RAF:
- if the wrongdoer isn’t identified, as in the case of a hit-and-run accident, the prescription period is only two years (this applies irrespective of any legal disability, such as where the victim is a minor or mentally incapacitated)
- if the claimant is a minor, the prescription period starts once the victim reaches their eighteenth birthday, whereupon there are three years to lodge a claim.
Claims against the State
Personal injury claims against organs of state include, for example, claims against PRASA or Metrorail, state hospitals, the South African Police Service (SAPS), Eskom or local authorities.
Claims against organs of state must be filed within three years of the incident, by way of service of a Summons on the relevant organ. After this period, a claim will generally lapse, even if the affected parties are unaware of the prescription period.
Other requirements also apply specifically to claims against the State.
For example, written notification of the intention to institute an action must be sent to the organ of state in question, within six months of the incident occurring. Legal proceedings can’t begin until 30 days after this notification has been sent.
If no notification is provided, it’s possible to apply to the court for condonation. Without this, a case will officially lapse.
In the following cases, the prescription period for personal injury claims against organs of state may be extended:
- if the claimant is mentally handicapped
- if the claimant is a minor – in which case the prescription period starts on their eighteenth birthday and lasts one year
- if injury or death occurs later – for example, if death or complications occur as a direct result of an incident but some time after the incident occurred.
In certain further limited instances, the running of prescription may be delayed until the injured victim in broad terms gains knowledge of their potential right to sue.
Different time limits are imposed on other types of personal injury claims.
For example, the time limit for proceeding with a medical malpractice claim is generally three years from when the alleged negligence took place. A range of exceptions apply.
An attorney familiar with the facts of your claim will be able to advise you on its validity, given the time limits that apply.
Personal injury claims with DSC Attorneys
Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team 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.