The Danger of Direct Claims

By Kirstie Haslam from DSC Attorneys 

Danger of Direct Claims

Would you allow somebody who owed you money to have the sole power to decide:

  • Whether they owe you anything at all
  • If so, how much they owe you
  • And finally, the terms on which you will be re-paid?

Sounds nonsensical doesn’t it? And yet this is exactly what it boils down to when you look at the situation with road accident victims being not only encouraged to submit their claims directly to the Road Accident Fund but further, in some instances being solicited to do so where they already have competent legal representation.

The RAF’s interference in an existing attorney & client relationship is highly irregular at best, unethical and possibly actionable at worst. This is however a topic all on its own. Let’s for now just look at a situation where, by whatever means, the RAF has seduced a claimant into submitting their claim directly (so-called “direct claims”).

In order to understand just some of the problems with direct claims, you first need to look at what the position is of a legally represented road accident victim.

An attorney is professionally and ethically bound (amongst a myriad of other duties) to:

  • Represent his/her client to the very best of their professional ability
  • Boldly and fearlessly advance their client’s case
  • Fully investigate and prepare the case, exploring every possible avenue to identify all potential losses
  • Refer the client for a range of medico-legal assessments, in each instance identifying and instructing the appropriate team of experts to fully canvas the long term prognosis of each injury
  • Timeously prosecute the client’s case to its eventual conclusion and to secure the best possible outcome taking all relevant circumstances into account

Where an attorney falls short in carrying out his/her professional and ethical duties, a client:

  • Has the option to have recourse to statutory regulatory authorities to investigate and, if warranted, sanction him/her; AND/OR
  • Can institute civil action for the full recovery of any losses occasioned by the dereliction of duty, in which regard attorneys hold professional indemnity insurance cover
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