Often victims of a motor vehicle accident have a misconception about the different parties that play a role and perform specific functions post accident. Legal practitioners often hear statements such as "The police have already taken a statement from me" when an affidavit must be drawn up in a civil case arising from the same accident. The question is who are all the role players and what are their respective roles?
Firstly, it is important for the police to get information that will enable them to determine how the accident happened and who should be held accountable. The police investigation determines whether a person will be criminally charged with a traffic violation and / or a crime such as reckless and / or negligent driving or culpable homicide (manslaughter), or even murder.
The short-term insurer is involved where damage to a vehicle or other property was incurred. Statements of how the accident happened and the damage assessment (assessors and panel beaters) are normally used in the process. Police affidavits and accident reports are sometimes called on as evidence.
Civil claims and proceedings are often instituted (insurance companies) in cases where a party to an accident does not have short-term insurance or where a dispute arises about the merits of the accident or extent of the damage. This process can once again mean that statements and evidence must be obtained to prove the claim. Police documentation can be used herein but is not a definite requirement.
Road Accident Fund
Claims for personal injury and death of dependents (don’t you mean breadwinners and not dependents?) are instituted against the Road Accident Fund. This process involves a separate investigation in which affidavits are obtained. Police statements and evidence can be used, but it is not a requirement that the state had to accuse and successfully prosecute before these claims can be legally recognised. On the contrary the state's investigation into a crime plays a limited role and the attorney who handles a claim against the Road Accident Fund, has limited interest and queries concerning the outcome of the criminal case. Only if a person is killed in a car crash, does it becomes necessary to obtain the results of the inquest or criminal prosecution so as to establish a successful claim against the Road Accident Fund.
If an employee is killed or injured in a car accident while on duty, claims are made against the Compensation Commissioner and a separate investigation is lodged. Disciplinary action against an employee who caused a motor vehicle accident in the course of his employment, can lead to a separate investigation that consists of the collection of all evidence (statements, file contents and accident reports).
For more information you are welcome to contact Barend Kruger of Rauch Gertenbach Attorneys at 044 601 9900 or firstname.lastname@example.org ; www.rgprok.co.za .