An Edenvale man who lost his leg in a horror eight-vehicle pile-up near Musina in 2006 has been awarded the sum of R3.9 million from the Road Accident Fund (RAF) in compensation.
In the Johannesburg High Court, Acting Judge FJ Bashall ordered the RAF to pay damages to Jorge Borrego (46), who was a business unit manager with an engineering firm prior to his debilitating accident.
The judgement follows a nightmare crash on the N1 North at the entrance to the JG Strijdom Tunnel, 70km outside Musina in Limpopo, on 28 November 2006. Extensive roadworks were taking place, and seven stationary vehicles were parked outside the tunnel, waiting for the robot regulating traffic to allow them access.
Suddenly, a runaway beverage delivery truck whose brakes had apparently failed approached the queue of cars and trucks rapidly from behind, and ploughed into them.
Several people were injured, but Borrego bore the brunt of the crash – his car was instantly sandwiched between the truck and the steel barrier. He scrabbled desperately to get out of the car, but his lower left leg was severed on impact.
Shocked bystanders managed to drag him from the mangled wreck, and paramedics were immediately summoned to the scene. A nightmarish couple of years followed, with Borrego constantly in and out of hospital. Doctors reattached his lower leg and foot – but, following several operations and skin grafts, and months of excruciating pain, the decision was taken to amputate the leg in October last year.
The court heard how Borrego had suffered severe psychological trauma, in addition to his physical injuries, following the accident. He experienced depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, as well as flashbacks and nightmares about the crash. One of his children has special needs, and Borrego feels guilty and inadequate that he can no longer play and cycle with her.
His company had been kind enough to keep him on, albeit in a different capacity – in a sedentary desk job – but now the firm is feeling the impact of the economic downturn and he faces the possibility of retrenchment. From being an independent, hands-on manager with 40 subordinates and a likely candidate for promotion to a directorship, his employment prospects are now bleak.
On Wednesday, the court ordered the RAF to pay Borrego general damages of R450 000 for the pain, suffering and trauma he had endured; as well as about R400 000 for past medical expenses and an undertaking to pay for all his future medical treatment. He was awarded R175 000 for past loss of income, and R2.8 million for future loss of income – totalling R3.9 million.
Michael de Broglio of De Broglio Attorneys, which represented Borrego in the matter, said that while he welcomed the court’s ruling, he was disappointed that the RAF had taken so long to settle the matter. “We and our client have been shunted around from pillar to post,” he said after judgement had been handed down. “Even though we are gratified that the award was more than double what had been expected, all of this could have been settled without incurring four days of High Court costs.”