Disabled childs two-year ordeal ends with RAF settlement
A Johannesburg family has been awarded a R3 million settlement from the Road Accident Fund (RAF), after their six-year-old son was knocked over by a car in 2006 and suffered permanent mental and physical disability as a result.
On 19 February 2009, the Johannesburg High Court ratified an out-of-court settlement reached between legal counsel for the family of Bongani Khumalo*, now aged nine, and the RAF.
“We are relieved that the matter has been settled,” said Bongani’s father, Thula Khumalo*. “Of course it will never compensate for what my son has been through, but at least now we can bring some closure to the whole affair and move on.”
The family, represented by de Broglio Attorneys, was granted the financial settlement to cover medical expenses incurred since the accident in November 2006, as well as general damages for pain, suffering and loss of the amenities of life, and for the child’s projected future loss of income.
The court order, issued by Witwatersrand Local Division Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo, includes an undertaking that the defendant will pay for all Bongani’s future medical treatment, including prosthetic limbs, remedial education, occupational therapy, psychotherapy and a caregiver, all of which could cost a further R1 million.
On 6 November 2006, Bongani was walking home from school in the south of Johannesburg with his caregiver and younger brother. While they were standing on the pavement, waiting for the traffic light to change to enable them to cross the road, a vehicle skipped a red robot and collided with another car. One of the drivers lost control of their vehicle and knocked Bongani down, resulting in his right lower leg and foot being traumatically amputated.
Blood was spurting out of the wound and concerned bystanders rushed to a nearby filling station to get ice to staunch the blood flow and preserve his amputated leg. However, a few days after having his leg reattached in hospital, Bongani developed complications and the dead limb had to be removed.
However, Bongani’s disability was not limited to the physical. Following the accident, his behaviour changed dramatically, and tests by various doctors and experts subsequently revealed that he had sustained brain injuries as well.
Neurosurgeon Dr Herman Edeling concluded that the youngster, who had previously been of average to high intellect, is now mentally impaired to the extent that his prospects of attaining Matric and post-graduate qualifications have been severely constrained. His negative behaviour and tendency to tire easily are also expected to compromise him in the workplace.
During a separate criminal trial, a woman was convicted of reckless and negligent driving for causing the accident, and now that the civil claim has been settled as well, the Khumalo family is keen to close this painful chapter and move on with their lives.
“Many people who are involved in road accidents don’t realise that they can claim from the RAF,” explains Nicolene le Roux, candidate attorney at De Broglio Attorneys in Johannesburg. “Enlisting the services of an attorney, and with the assistance of authoritative experts, claimants have more of a chance of obtaining a reasonable payout from the Fund.”
Despite the trauma he has endured over the past two years, and the fact that he is more withdrawn than before and is prone to uncontrollable outbursts due to his brain damage, Bongani is an endearing child who says he particularly enjoys computers and Afrikaans at school. The R3 million sum will be placed in a trust fund, part of which his parents intend to use to enrol him in a private school where he can receive special, individualised attention.
“We are grateful that he’s alive, but sometimes it’s sad to look at him, remembering how he once was,” Thula Khumalo reflects.
He says that Bongani has met ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius and looks up to him as a role model. Sporting a similar high-tech carbon fibre prosthesis to those used by his sprinter hero, Bongani is hoping to put the horror of the past two years behind him and step more confidently into the future.
* Names have been changed to protect the family’s confidentiality
Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.