Paralysed car smash victim to get millions

RAF agrees to pay him out after initially offering a mere R25 000

getimagePetrus Taje is to receive a multi-million rand payout from the Road Accident Fund after an accident left him paralysed.

A FORMER miner left paralysed following a car accident in 2006, will, thanks to the intervention of lawyers, receive a multi-million rand payout from the Road Accident Fund (RAF), which initially offered him a mere R25 000.

Petrus Taje, 40, has been living in a home for the disabled in Bloemfontein for nine years since the accident and had to make do with a disability grant.

Following the settlement which was yesterday made an order of the High Court sitting in Pretoria, an elated Taje said he could now make life easier for himself.

The first thing on his list is to buy his own home and to pay for caregivers.

“I cannot tell you how glad I am that I never accepted the offer made to me by the RAF three years after the accident. At least I will be able to live a dignified life,” Taje said.

He was a passenger in a car on March 4, 2006, when it collided with another vehicle. He suffered severe injuries, including a fracture of the neck and a back injury. He has been wheelchair-ridden since.

“I lodged my claim directly with the RAF as I had no idea how these things work and I did not have money to pay a lawyer. Someone from the RAF phoned me after three years to ask for my bank account details as they wanted to pay my money to me.

“I asked how much I was going to get, but the woman said she did not know. She simply wanted my details so the money could be paid. I refused to give the account number before I knew how much I would get.”

That was the last he had heard from the fund, he said.

He questioned how the RAF could decide on his damages if he was not medically assessed to ascertain the extent of the injuries he had suffered.

His lawyer, Gert Nel, said the offer made at the time was a mere R25 000. “We have quantified the matter and estimated the claim to be worth in the region of R4 million,” he said.

The new claim was lodged soon after it was received, but lawyers acting for the RAF opposed it on the basis that the five-year period (since the accident) in which a claim can be lodged had lapsed.

Nel questioned this, saying his firm received the claim after the five-year time frame had lapsed. “The matter in fact prescribed in the RAF’s own hands and we pointed this out to them,” he said.

The RAF persisted in denying liability for the damages suffered by Taje and only conceded liability minutes before the trial was due to serve before court.

Yesterday, the RAF made an offer, which Taje accepted. However, he did not want the details of the offer made public.

Nel said this type of scenario was not uncommon. “It happens nearly daily that the RAF persists in not taking responsibility for a claim, stretching out the proceedings and eventually settling on the court stairs. The taxpayer then has to foot the wasted costs.”

He expressed concern at the possible implementation of the new Road Accident Benefit Scheme (Rabs) Bill, which is due to replace the existing RAF. In terms of the scheme claimants will lodge their claims directly with the fund, which will then decide according to a formula how much a victim will receive. “Claimants will be at the mercy of the fund’s administrator,” Nel said.