Criteria for regarding an injury as serious
The Road Accident Fund considers an injury “serious” if it qualifies as such with reference to the guidelines provided in the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Sixth Edition.
These guidelines provide a vast set of criteria for determining an injured person’s so-called “Whole Person Impairment” (WPI). The WPI is expressed as a percentage. The Minister of Transport set the threshold percentage at 30%, meaning that the accident victim must be assessed as being 30% Whole Person Impaired in order to qualify for an award of general damages. Such an assessment can only be made by an appropriate medical specialist (who has the requisite qualification from the AMA), after the victim has reached maximum medical recovery (meaning that the injuries have stabilised and have not notably improved or deteriorated for a period of several months prior to the assessment).
Examples of injuries that may meet the 30% threshold are amputations, permanent brain damage and paraplegia.
If an injury isn’t rated as 30% Whole Person Impairment in terms of the AMA guidelines, the medical practitioner may apply a “narrative test” to determine whether the claimant may still be entitled to compensation for general damages.
In this case, an injury can be classified as serious only if it has resulted in:
- long-term impairment or the loss of a body function
- permanent, severe disfigurement
- a serious long-term mental or behavioural disturbance or disorder
- the loss of an unborn child.
Common road accident injuries that have by regulation been classified as not being serious – unless there are complications – include whiplash, sprains, torn ligaments, the loss of fingers or toes and superficial wounds.
Claiming for serious injury
If you’ve suffered a serious injury in a road accident that wasn’t solely your fault, it’s likely you’re entitled to claim damages from the Road Accident Fund. These could cover your past and future medical expenses, loss of income associated with the injury and compensation for pain and suffering.
To support your claim, you’ll need to be examined by a medical professional. The medical practitioner will then need to compile a Serious Injury Assessment Report, which must confirm that your injury is serious enough to warrant compensation. In many cases, substantiating reports and annexures must also be submitted with the report.
Getting expert legal representation
For the best chance of a successful claim, it’s strongly recommended that you consult an attorney with direct experience in handling road accident claims.
At DSC Attorneys, all our attorneys are highly experienced in personal injury law and offer many years of combined experience in handling Road Accident Fund claims.