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Check out people

I learnt a valuable lesson recently with a staff member we employed, only to discover how little work the staff member was doing.  That lesson is to always check out the references of the person.  I think there is a tendency, particularly within the legal profession in South Africa, for people to always believe it is going to cause offence or difficulty, to phone the previous employer for a reference.  Instead, we tend to automatically assume that the attorney or secretary is highly regarded in the workplace, well trained and worthy of hiring.  Often, what you get instead, is somebody else’s lemon – somebody that they could not wait to get rid of and that person leaves a trail of destruction, from one firm to another with each firm snapping them up and deciding not to phone the previous employer to find out whether the person is a good employee or not.  

I think due to my writing of my Legalnewsletter which attorneys can join at www.legalnewsletter.co.za, people have automatically assumed over the years that my staff members are all top class and well trained and so I have certainly lost staff on that basis too.  In one notable case, the employment agency phoned me up after about a week to say that the new attorney was furious, that the person they hired from my offices was incapable, had no idea of litigation and had no idea what a serious injury was either.  They asked if I would be so kind as to just give them a letter for the attorney who had hired her confirming that the secretary concerned had been trained in those fields.  I explained, in no uncertain terms, that firstly the staff member had been taken away from my firm without anybody phoning me in the first place, and that I was certainly not going to now, to try and protect the agent’s commission, give an endorsement.  I explained that the secretary concerned had worked in my bill of cost department, and had never worked in litigation and had never been trained in anything to do with litigation or serious injuries, because that is not the department in which she worked!  It is amazing how often people will exaggerate their role in their CV and prospective employers simply see a name, assume that everybody that comes from that firm has been well trained or is a superstar and snaps them up.  The reality is that every business has its weak employees and the better employees are normally well looked after and are not looking around for jobs.  

In any event, in my most recent reminder of this, we discovered to our bitter cost, when the staff member responsible for checking up references waited until the person had done a considerable amount of damage in a relatively short time, before she phoned up the previous employer.  The previous law firm in no time at all told us that they would never hire the individual ever again and as luck would have it, that individual is now off to a new law firm where they oversee even more files than they were at my firm!  An advocate friend of mine told me that the previous firm was probably laughing at us – and I said to him while it was true, the person concerned had spent 7 times longer at that firm than they did at my firm – so I am not sure how loud they would be laughing!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 06-Dec-16   |  Permalink   |  44 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
EFF threat to South Africa

I have written before on my blog that we must all be careful, when we get too excited about the trouble the EFF is giving Jacob Zuma.  Sometimes one is so keen to get rid of what is clearly the worst President South Africa has had since 1994 that we don’t really care who helps make him go.  One then falls into the hands of the Economic Freedom Fighters – the EFF led by Julius Malema.  There is nothing that they represent and stand for that would ever help South Africa or democracy in South Africa.   

The statements that Julius Malema makes are far more outrageous and more insane than any of the comments ever made by Donald Trump in America.  They are a small party now, so we all ignore them, but one of the big risks to South Africa in the future is if the EFF continues to grow and it is relatively easy for a party that does not lead anything to grow – after all, they have never been proved to be wrong, they have never been shown to be inept or corrupt, etc, because they have not actually been in power.  One hopes that the Magistrates and the courts take some of his hate speech seriously.  The things he says are completely unacceptable and none of us must forget that his idol, and the country from whom many of the EFF’s policies are followed are respectively Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe.  

Zimbabwe is a great lesson for South Africa as far as I am concerned – because it gives a road map of exactly what not to do when in charge of a country and it really shows you how stupid Julius Malema is, that everything that has failed in Zimbabwe essentially forms part of the policies of the EFF.  I would rather have the ANC in power for 200 years than the EFF in power for 2 years and one hopes that the EFF does not grow too much in popularity that the ANC is forced to move more to the left than it already is, in an effort not to lose power.  People forget that that is the job of a political party – to get power and to stay in power – and when they start losing their votes they will always shift their position.  

If the EFF continues to grow, even if they don’t get into power, it will force the ANC at some point to shift their policies on some of the issues.  If you are white, you can at least be comfortable with his latest statement that you are not about to be slaughtered right now – he said, “We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people, at least for now.”  The very fact that he can make such an outrageous statement is already playing the games that we have seen lead to genocide in Ruanda, etc, where talking about people as if they are cockroaches, etc, led to one group turning on the other and killing them, is frightening and as much as I have no regard for Jacob Zuma, I would still rather have him being President than Julius Malema.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 02-Dec-16   |  Permalink   |  43 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Phantom 4

I recently bought a Phantom 4 drone by DJI Technologies.  I was quite surprised at the recent shoot at my offices for the 2017 adverts that we were busy recording to see my advertising company using the same drone.  It is a great drone and it has a 4k camera, but I do think that better cameras are available for specialists, but on the other hand, with this one retailing for R25,000 in South Africa, perhaps at that price it is good enough.  I have a cheaper drone before, and by cheaper, I mean one that cost about R3,500 and it just was not anywhere near the class of this one. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to things like drones, you really have to spend quite a bit of money if you want to get one because the cheaper ones really don’t last very long, they don’t work very well and it is just really a waste of money.  The fancier ones are completely different and are capable of flying about 120 metres high – which means you lose sight of it long before it gets to that height and up to 2 km away, although in practice I have never flown mine further than about 700 metres away before losing contact with it.

They are amazing for taking all sorts of pictures – think of couples in front of a wedding chapel from a bit of height, staff in front of the offices (it would have helped if all my staff members were there when they filmed it and not just one-third of the staff) or for property sales, in terms of the house you are trying to sell or surveying a piece of land.  Apart from that, they are just good old fashioned fun for boys – and boys love their toys.  Obviously, as the years go by we will see the use of drones for more and more things – it is already very common to use them in sport – but I am noticing that they are starting to use them in more documentaries and adverts – that after all allows you to get the kind of footage that a few years ago you had to have hired a helicopter and a full crew to obtain.  These days, for R25,000, in South Africa or the equivalent of about R17,000 overseas, you can get a drone that films in 4k – and a few years ago not even movie cameras could film in 4k let alone your own drone!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 29-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  46 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Video of Master Sabina winning Summer Cup

Master Sabina winning his second Summer Cup in a row on Saturday at Turffontaien racecourse.  Now a 9 time winner and the highest rated horse I have ever had.  Watch the gap he had to take when horses shifted across and blocked his path.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 28-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  30 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Master Sabina wins the Summer Cup again

Master Sabina won the Summer Cup for me on Saturday for the 2nd year in a row.  Other than the Met and the July it is South Africa's most prestigious race and the biggest on the Highveld so its certainly something I am delighted about!

The race is one I will never forget.  I cannot recall any major feature race where the winner has come from so far back and had so many traffic issues to deal with and still gone on to win.  The horse who came third, Master Switch literally almost squeezed him out of the race but he kept his line and barged his way through a gap that didn't exist.  In winning Master Sabina beat the July Handicap winner from this year also.  A big thanks to the jockey Gavin Lerena and the trainer Geoff Woodruff.

Sporting Post described the race this way, "A heartstopping burst through a nearly non-existent gap by Summer Cup double hero Master Sabina....Saturday’s  tackle buster, reminiscent of Springbok rugby legend Danie Gerber in full cry, will go down as his bravest victory to date"

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Saturday 26-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  45 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Enjoying Westworld on TV

I have really been enjoying a new HBO production, and HBO of course made Game of Thrones, called Westworld.  It is a mini-series based on the 1973 feature film by Michael Crichton.  It is a science fiction drama set in an old west theme park where basically guests come along and interact with very lifelike robots.  Some of them are for example working as escorts, but they are really there for the people to do with as they please, including shooting them, in which case they repaired overnight.  They appear human in every respect.  

The trend these days for top mini-series is to have top actors and the main draw card of the series is Anthony Hopkins as well as Evan Rachel Worth and Ed Harris.  The reviews are excellent with ratings on Rotten Tomato of 89% and the production and the acting are first-class.  The reviews suggest that it is an exploration of what it means to be human, as well as the thoughtful critique of violent entertainment – while being violent at the same time and that should give you some clues as to whether or not you would want to watch it.  It currently flights on Mnet Edge channel 102 on Monday nights at 9pm.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 25-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  42 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Do not approach the Road Accident Fund directly

The Road Accident Fund is on a campaign at the moment to try and get more people to lodge their claims with them directly.  Partially this is because, as some of the representatives have impliedly told Parliament before, people who go to court typically get more money than people who don’t, but I think it is important to give some perspective as to some of the offers made by the Road Accident Fund that my firm has come across and what we ultimately obtained for clients, so that people understand the savings you make by not having an attorney are not real and that you cannot save money by getting 100% of R366,000 compared to, at least, 75% of R3 million. That is an actual example of a case where one of our clients was, after approaching the Road Accident Fund directly, encouraged to accept an offer of R366,000 after spending a month in hospital.  We have an advocate’s opinion who says that the case is worth R3 million and that the offer borders on the unethical.  Even if one takes a conservative approach and says it is only worth half of what the advocate says it is, it is still worth about 5 times what the Road Accident Fund has offered.  

Another client of ours was told by the Road Accident Fund that she has no claim. We took the case to court and settled it for R200,000.  That’s R200 000 for a “no claim” according to the RAF staff.

Yet another client of ours was given an offer by the Road Accident Fund and was indeed paid out for his general damages.  They did not tell him, because he will never work properly again, that he was also entitled to compensation for loss of income.  Since we sued the Road Accident Fund for their under-settling this client’s case they have already paid out an interim amount of R600,000 or so and we feel that the balance of the case is worth another R1,5 million.

In other matters the Road Accident Fund has filed documents in court, and you can read the documents here (http://accidentclaim.co.za/_docs/RAF_plea_dont_help_clients.pdf) where they have said that all members of the public who approach them directly are told that of course the Road Accident Fund cannot represent them and themselves at the same time and it is impossible for them to wear two hats and play those two different roles.  That is not actually though what they say in the media – where they say the opposite and say you can save a lot of fees by approaching them.  In court papers they say that if you approach them directly you are doing the case yourself, you are responsible for it and you have to make sure that no mistakes are made and you have to make sure that your case proceeds successfully – which would in most cases include issuing a summons yourself.  How many people would approach them if they publicise that in their town hall meetings as well as publicity?

The bottom line is, if you approach the Road Accident Fund directly, you may well save on legal fees, but if your case has any value to it you may be so considerably under-settled that any saving you get on legal fees will be a fraction of what you have just lost by not approaching an attorney.  Before you finalise any case with the Road Accident Fund, go to a reputable attorney and get the offer checked, because you may just discover that you are absolutely being taken advantage of.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 23-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  43 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Crazy month

I am sure I have written about this before, but to me the two most difficult periods of the year are late January until mid-February as well as November.  There is always such aggression in the air, particularly in Johannesburg, during November as the business year winds to an end.  It is only round about the first or second week of December when people start to relax and calm down.  Until then, there seems to be a lot more hostility and I have often experienced it with our clients.  We don’t have the same issues that we did in the past, because we have much smaller number of clients than we did 7 or 8 years ago before the system changed, even if they have bigger cases now than the average case of 7 or 8 years ago.  What is also significant is that the vast majority of clients have now accepted that they have to wait a lengthy period for payment and they have become far more patient than they might have been in the past.  Nevertheless, there is always pressure from people, not just clients, towards the end of the year.

I always try at this time to remind my staff of some of the basics – and that is to control your own temper, to bear in mind that you might be picking fights with people for reasons that are not entirely valid and to try and always reduce stress and pressure by exercising healthily. There is no doubt that a good session of weights, aerobics or running will so often calm one down and allow one to make a more rational decision in handling a matter than one might if one typically allows all the energy and negativity to continue to build up without any release.   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 22-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  47 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Voting  city dwellers versus rural dwellers

The one trend that has become obvious in recent elections around the world is the trend of city dwellers versus rural dwellers in voting results.  The city dwellers tend to vote for the more liberal party, often more based in reality, whereas there is a trend around the world from those living in more rural areas in the smaller towns to choose much more populist candidates now.  A person who makes the wild promises, a person who says whatever they want to hear, regardless of whether there is any basis for it or not.  It is a worrying trend and it is something we saw in the British Brexit election where the industrial towns voted completely differently to a major city like London, and it is the same with the American election where Hillary Clinton won by a considerable distance in all the major cities in the country, but ultimately lost because Donald Trump had the support of the rural voters and those from the small towns.  

Part of it, no doubt, relates to the growing income disparities around the world between the rich and the middleclass.  The super wealthy are simply getting more and more money, and their earnings are many multiples of those of the regular man to a much greater extent than they have been at any other time in the history of the world.  At some point, something must give or change, because we cannot be in a position where a large proportion of the population of any country feels disenfranchised.  At the end of the day, they will either vote the elites out or they will impose wealth taxes, the likes of which we have seen in France where the top earners are taxed at 70%.  I won’t be surprised if we start seeing more wealth taxes in South Africa – the only questions will be what amount do they start it at and at what rate above the current top tax rate of 41%? R million a year? R1,5 million a year?

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 18-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  38 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Dressing carefully

I was recording new television adverts together with quite a few of my staff recently and as usual it was educational in many ways.  What I noticed this time, more than previously, is the tremendous difference that different items of clothing on you can make.  I am certainly not in my best shape at the moment, but with the different changes in clothes it is amazing how you can wear one shirt and look perfectly decent and in another shirt look bloated and overweight.  I was actually horrified with the one particular scene involving me walking with a client, where I think I look terrible, but it was too late to re-record it by the time I saw the effect.  

It is no wonder that most of the stars and the TV production companies all use stylists so they have somebody choosing what looks good on the people, pinning it if necessary and styling it.  If that was not enough, one of my staff told me that it is quite common for guys to wear make-up now to nightclubs.  That should probably be a topic for another blog!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 16-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  47 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Local rip-off

I have the new iPhone 7 Plus and I enjoy it.  I think the photographs it takes are indeed better, but I cannot say for anybody who had the iPhone 6, that the upgrade is really going to be worth the money – probably not.  If you have an older version, then of course it is time to upgrade by now.

What amazes me though is the cash price it is available for in the local stores which is approximately R18,500 for the 128Mb version.  The same version in the USA is approximately R12,500.  It is incredible that so many extra taxes and profit have to be put on a product before it is put on sale in South Africa and it stops us getting ahead as much as we would like because, while it is one thing to slap all of these tariffs, etc on imported clothing, I feel it is another thing on communication devices.  I would like to see widespread internet availability in South Africa and computer usage at low cost and when one accepts that for most people their phone is their personal computer, I think it is outrageous that phones can cost 50% more in South Africa than in other countries – especially when being sold by the same company, although as I understand it, the Apple stores in South Africa are not directly owned by Apple.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 14-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  47 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Public perception and statistics

It is amazing how often the public perception of what great risks are, and the statistics, are so far apart.  For example, a lot of people have the impression that in Europe or America you have a huge chance of being killed by terrorism.  

In fact, in the last 10 years in America, a total of 300 people have been killed in terrorist attacks.  That is about as many who die in motor accidents in a week in South Africa.  That is a figure that will surprise most people, and in fact, more people die each year accidentally tangling themselves up in their bed sheets in America than from terrorist attacks.  

To me what this really says is that they are so used to the statistics and the shock and horror stories that the media feeds us.  It is sad, but it does not really make the news anymore that a woman and her son on their way to school are killed in the morning traffic - that 4 teenagers on their way home from a nightclub on Friday night are killed in a motor accident.  That is not sensational – hundreds and thousands have died that way before and so, that is not what the media focuses on.  They focus on the lightning strike that kills somebody on the beach, the child that walks into alligator-infested waters at a Disney Resort and is then killed by an alligator, the 20 people that are killed in one country by a hurricane and 800 people are killed in a much smaller country like Haiti, where there is not much of media presence, is not such a big story.  

To me, the true sensational story should be that every single week in South Africa a full Boeing load of people are killed on our roads.  Three times that number are seriously injured and maimed and by that I mean lose eyes, get brain damaged, lose their arms, lose legs, etc.  I don’t mean suffer whiplashes.  It is a tragedy that we have become so used to the death and destruction on our roads that we all forget that that, apart from the usual suspects such as lung cancer from smoking and heart disease, etc, that are the big killers.  The bottom line is, regardless of where you live in the world, your chance of being killed by terrorists or a madman with a gun, before cancer, heart disease or a motorcar get you, are remote.  That does not mean it cannot happen to you, but one really should not sensationalise the bizarre.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 11-Nov-16   |  Permalink   |  43 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It

Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
Have you been injured in a motor accident?
Recent Settlements
Lumbar spine compression fractures R2 500 000.00
Severe hip fracture requiring total hip replacements R3 305 000.00
Head injury with disfiguring facial scaring of a young female R4 000 000.00
Whiplash and compression fracture of the spine R4 000 000.00
Broken Femora R1 914 416.00
Broken Femur and Patella R770 881.15
Loss of Support for two minor children R2 649 968.00
Fracture of the right Humerus, fracture of the pubi rami, abdominal injuries, head injury R4 613 352.95
Fracture of the right femur, Fracture of the right tibia-fibula R1 200 000.00
Broken Jaw, Right Shoulder Injury, Mild head injury R1 100 000.00
Degloving injuries to the hips, legs and ankle R877 773.00
Head injury R 2 734 295.12
Fractured pelvis R1 355 881.53
Damaged tendons in left arm R679 688.03
Fractured left hand R692 164.48
Amputated right lower leg with loss of income R3 921 000.00
Fractured left foot R600 000.00
Head injury and multiple facial fractures R5 000 000.00
Head injury, compound fracture right femur, right tib and fib fracture, and injury to the spleen R4 529 672.06
Head injury, multiple facial fractures, collapsed lung and a fracture to the right frontal bone R2 890 592.77
Loss of support R5 144 000.00

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