General damages compensation in South Africa: What you can (and can’t) claim

General damages compensation in South Africa: What you can (and can’t) claim
15 Mar 2022

If you’re injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. Along with compensation to cover financial losses such as medical expenses, this can include compensation for general damages.

In this article, we explain what general damages are, and what you can and can’t claim.

What are general damages?

General damages cover non-monetary losses.

In the context of personal injury claims, these are non-monetary consequences of injury caused by someone else’s negligence. An award of general damages is intended as a “solatium”, i.e as compensation for the injured party’s pain and suffering, and loss of amenities of life.

Whereas monetary losses can be calculated directly and supported by financial records, the value of general damages is subjective.

What general damages can you claim?

General damages in a personal injury case can include:

  • pain and suffering
  • loss of the amenities of life
  • disfigurement.

Pain and suffering may be physical, mental or both.

For example, damages may be awarded for psychological or psychiatric injury.

What can you typically not claim?

South African courts don’t typically award compensation for grief, bereavement, loss of companionship or other forms of non-clinical distress.

In some countries, including the United States, these damages are recognised.

How are general damages calculated in a personal injury case?

General damages compensation in South Africa is at the discretion of the courts.

The amount awarded will depend on:

  • the particular circumstances of a case
  • how much courts have recently awarded in comparable cases.

A number of case-specific factors may influence the amount that’s awarded.

These range from the claimant’s age and financial status to the severity of the injury, its long-term consequences and the level of pain and suffering associated with it.

General damages compensation in medical malpractice claims

In South Africa, victims of medical malpractice may be eligible for compensation from:

  • the State (in the case of a public hospital)
  • a private hospital
  • one or more individual healthcare practitioners.

Typically, the success of a claim for general damages will depend on testimony provided by medical experts.

General damages in Road Accident Fund claims

Only claimants who have suffered injuries that qualify as “serious” are entitled to general damages compensation from the Road Accident Fund (RAF).

Under RAF legislation, serious injury is defined as involving 30% or greater “Whole Person Impairment” (WPI).

An injury also qualifies as serious if it has resulted in:

  • long-term impairment or the loss of a body function
  • permanent, severe disfigurement
  • a serious long-term mental or behavioural disturbance or disorder
  • the loss of an unborn child.

For more details, see the article, Road Accident Fund Claims: What Injuries Count as “Serious”?.

Getting help from suitably experienced attorneys

General damages compensation is a complex issue that’s best handled by attorneys who specialise in personal injury litigation.

At DSC Attorneys, all our attorneys have extensive experience in personal injury law. In addition, clients benefit from access to our extensive panel of top medico-legal specialists and advocates.

We work on a no-win, no-fee basis. Contact us for the very best legal support and representation.

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(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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