The Arrive Alive website received an interesting email last week from a disgruntled vehicle owner. Attached to the email was an invoice for the repair of damaged rims suffered by the vehicle owner driving near Paulpietersburg. This was made more interesting by the vehicle owner adding her banking details and demanding a deposit of funds for the damage suffered.
The Arrive Alive website and this Car Insurance Blog neither are responsible, nor have the funding to meet these interesting requests, but we can assist vehicle owners with some legal advice and point them in the right direction!
Car Damage and the Law
On the Car insurance Blog we will provide a short series of blogs on the liability for damage caused by road construction, negligence on the part of road authorities, pothole damage etc. As only few of our readers would have had the opportunity to read law, we would like to discuss this topic in a few separate blog posts in a manner that could be easily understood.
We would like to focus on some of the following interesting questions:
• Can I claim for damage caused by road construction?
• Can I claim for damage suffered as a result of unattended potholes?
• Can construction companies evade liability by merely adding warning signs?
• What is contributory negligence and why is this important when suffering damage?
• Why are road authorities sometimes held accountable and other times not?
• Where do we claim and what do we need to know about providing evidence?
How should we interpret the law and decisions on vehicle damage?
There are many aspects of the law that will require our attention. Unfortunately many of these could be quite technical – and we would like to discuss many of the different scenarios in a manner that is both simple, but correct!
This will require easy to understand references to aspects from the law of delict, the law of evidence and many other area of law. As part of the introduction we would like to glance across a few important aspects we should constantly be reminded of:
Decisions on liability are not “Armchair decisions”
It is highly unlikely that one circumstance or event would have the exact same characteristics to that of another. When going through a pot hole this might not only be a different pothole – but the damage might be at another time, driving at a different speed, in different road conditions etc….. and so we can go on….
Many of us who would have learnt too much –or rather too little – from programmes on television or the movies, tend to ask “Are they guilty?” or “ Who is to blame?/ Who is at fault?” etc. The law however is not that simple and does not offer a mere yes or no answer!
In case law we often find the remark from the presiding officer that he needs to guard against an “armchair approach”. The presiding officer/ judge would try to place himself/herself in the exact same circumstance with all the material facts considered before making a decision. It will be important for us as well not to make simplistic deductions from specific examples …but to remain objective and non-emotional when comparing the examples referred to with the damage to our own vehicles.
Evidence, Facts, Proof and Car Insurance
A wise man once remarked “Look after the facts…and the law will look after itself”. It is very important that we recognize the challenges in making a decision on fault or negligence. We need to consider how we will manage to prove that the negligent act [or failure to act] by another resulted in the damage suffered.
The law of evidence guides us to what the burden of proof would be and the importance of providing the necessary evidence to make a decision possible. There will be no finding of negligence and no finding on damages will be made without the necessary testimony by witnesses or provision of material facts. We will consider which evidence should be collected and which photos need to be taken.
Case Law and findings/ judgements made by the courts
In our legal system follow the previous judgements made by our highest courts in coming to a decision. We will make reference to interesting cases before our courts and focus on those important legal principles [ratio decidendi] within judgements providing the reasons why specific decisions were made.
Our objective in discussing the law and car insurance
We will strive to guide our readers to a greater understanding of their rights and the rights of road authorities, road construction companies etc. Through the examples provided our readers should gain a greater understanding on how to protect their interests.
Even though we would like to emphasize the importance of purchasing the correct car insurance product – we also need to be aware of our rights and how the law can protect us!!