Someone claiming damages for personal injury as a result of the acts of another has to prove that the personal injury happened as well as the quantum of the damages that was suffered. The injured person should therefore record and keep all evidence of the personal injury to ensure a convincing case in court.

A person has a personal injury claim when there has been a lessening in a highly personal right or personality interest not affecting the person’s financial position. A highly personal right has been impaired when a person has suffered pain, emotional shock, psychological illness, psychiatric injury or physical suffering due to the fault of another. Where a person’s physical body has been violated, he has a patrimonial and non-patrimonial claim i.e. medical expenses and loss of income as well as monetary compensation for his pain and suffering.

Someone who has suffered an emotional shock because of witnessing another person’s suffering could also have a personal injury claim against a guilty party even if such a claimant did not personally suffer any physical injury.

Road Accident Fund (RAF)

When a person sustains an injury in an accident on a South African road, the negligent person is indemnified against claims for this type of damage and the injured person has to lodge a claim against the RAF. The injured party cannot however, claim from the RAF for damage to his vehicle (the person who caused the accident is liable for this), but only for medical expenses, loss of income or maintenance, pain and suffering or emotional shock.

Injuries caused by Animal bites

Injuries from animals are a common occurrence in South Africa where the injured person usually has a remedy against the owner of the animal provided that the injured person has not provoked the animal in a way that caused it to behave contrary to its nature or where the injured person has illegally accessed the premises where the animal caused the injury.

Medical Malpractice

The test for concluding if there was negligence on the part of the medical practitioner is, therefore, basically the normal test for negligence i.e. what would a reasonable person in the circumstances with the same level of expertise have done to protect against the foreseeable harm.

When a patient signs an indemnity form, it does not mean that the medical practitioner is acquitted of all blame for injuries which he has caused.

Slip and trips

Slip and trip accidents can give rise to a personal injury claim against the owner of a premises. It is required by law, to keep the property free from possible hazards or refrains from warning people of potential danger which might occur. These hazards include slippery surfaces, areas which are not lighted properly, failure to put up railings or barriers and failure to draw attention to dangerous areas.