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Took over from other attorneys

updated: 10-Jun-09

More than 10 years after he was injured in a horrific car accident, Ryno van Schalkwyk will finally be able to close a traumatic chapter in his life, after the Pretoria High Court ordered the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to pay him R1.59 million in damages.

Van Schalkwyk (51), who lives near Kuruman, was a truck driver at the time of the accident, in which three people died. It took place in July 1998 in Limpopo, en route to Ellisras. He was driving a 10-ton truck when the bakkie in front of him swerved over to the wrong side of the road, causing an approaching 4x4 to take evasive action.

However, the 4x4 ended up in the path of the truck and the two vehicles collided. As a result of the crash, one of Van Schalkwyk’s helpers fell out of the truck cab, was run over by another approaching vehicle and was disembowelled and his chest split open. A 10-year-old boy who was a passenger in the 4x4 broke his neck and died instantly, and the driver died while being transported to hospital.

Van Schalkwyk later told a psychiatrist that it was the most horrific scene he had ever witnessed.

He sustained a lower-back injury in the accident, and continues to suffer from chronic back pain. His injuries meant that he could no longer carry on with his job as a heavy-duty truck driver. Being an outdoors person and unsuited for the desk job he was subsequently given by his employer, he resigned in 2000. He went to live on the family farm outside Kuruman and later started receiving a disability grant.

In addition to his physical injuries, Van Schalkwyk was extremely traumatised by the accident. Haunted by the gruesome deaths that had occurred right before his eyes, he underwent psychiatric treatment and psychotherapy. He continues to live a solitary existence on the farm, and still suffers symptoms of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

Van Schalkwyk’s accident claim against the RAF was stuck in limbo for several years, as he had initially appointed a local firm of attorneys who, according to him, “did absolutely nothing for eight years”. Frustrated by their inaction, he subsequently approached de Broglio Attorneys, who promptly assigned a dedicated team to the matter and set about preparing a detailed case. On 28 May 2009, judgment was handed down in the matter by Judge Rabie in the Pretoria High Court.

In light of the fact that experts said that Van Schalkwyk is physically impaired and functionally unemployable as a result of the accident, he was awarded the sum of R1.59 million, including R350 000 in general damages for pain and suffering, as well as compensation for loss of income, and an undertaking to pay for his past and future medical expenses. This award is significantly higher than the R250 000 settlement the Fund had originally offered him.

Van Schalkwyk is completely over the moon about the outcome of the case. “I am very happy and extremely relieved that it is over, after 11 long years,” he enthuses. “I feel like a completely different person already, with a new, positive outlook on life. I am busy losing weight – I have already lost 10kg – in preparation for having an operation that will hopefully ease my pain and improve my quality of life.”

He is so impressed with de Broglio Inc’s “service with a smile” that he has already recommended the firm to an acquaintance who also has an RAF claim that has been languishing in no-man’s land for many years.

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.