Assault claims against the police – When and how to claim

14 Oct 2020

In South Africa, assault claims against the police may result in compensation for victims of police brutality or their families. To protect your rights or assist others, it’s useful to know when and how to claim.

The problem of violence by the police in South Africa

In 2020, the murder of George Floyd and other incidents of police brutality in the United States sparked worldwide outrage.

In South Africa, police brutality attracts less media attention.

However, the South African Police Service (SAPS) kills three times more people per capita than the US police force.

Reports involving use of excessive non-lethal force by the police are also widespread. According to statistics released by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) itself, 3,835 cases of assault were opened against the police in 2019.

What to do if you’re assaulted

If you’re assaulted or threatened, the first priority is to secure your own safety.

Regardless of the situation, avoid provoking attack or further violence. Don’t resist arrest. Avoid responding aggressively, and don’t try to pay a bribe.

After an assault, get support from family or a friend and seek medical attention.

The sooner you seek medical treatment the better. From a legal standpoint, a delay could make it harder to establish a causal connection between the assault and your injuries.

Gathering evidence after an assault

Once you’re safe, it’s important to record as much relevant information as you can.

To support a possible claim against the police, aim to document the following:

  • details of exactly what occurred, and where and when
  • names and identification numbers of the offending officer(s)
  • contact details for any witnesses
  • reports from attending healthcare professionals
  • X-rays and results of any other medical tests
  • photographs showing any visible injuries
  • receipts for medical costs and any other costs due to the assault.

What can you claim?

If you’ve suffered injury as a result of police assault, it may be possible to institute a claim against the SAPS or your city’s municipal police department.

A police assault claim may result in compensation for:

  • medical costs for physical, emotional and/or psychological harm resulting directly from the incident
  • loss of income if you have to miss work
  • loss of support, if a family breadwinner dies as a result of unlawful police action
  • pain and suffering caused by the assault.

How to make a police assault claim in South Africa

If you’ve suffered personal injury as a result of police assault, contact a suitably experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Claims against the police are subject to specific rules and time limits.

For example, your attorney must inform the Minister of Police of your intent to pursue a claim. This must generally occur within six months of the incident. However, exceptions, known as “condonations”, are sometimes granted.

A civil action can be instituted only 90 days after this notification is served.

A police assault claim must also be submitted within a prescribed time period. Typically, this is within three years of the incident.

How DSC Attorneys can help

DSC Attorneys specialises in personal injury law and has a successful track record in winning claims against the police.

We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no win, no fee basis.

Contact us for more information or to discuss your police assault claim.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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