Accident victim in legal battle for RAF payments
After three years of refusals, a young woman who was left brain damaged and paralysed in a horror Van der Kemp’s Kloof bridge crash 11 years ago, has now turned to the Port Elizabeth High Court to force the Road Accident Fund to pay for a car.
Carly Bonnesse has also been battling to get payment for her carers and alterations to her home.
Bonnesse was 13 when taxi driver Ralton van Rooyen lost control of an overloaded Toyota Quantum transporting schoolchildren.
Six children died and three others, including Bonnesse, were seriously injured in the crash in September 2007.
Van Rooyen was found guilty on six counts of culpable homicide and reckless driving and sentenced to nine years in prison. He was released in 2012 after serving three years.
Bonnesse, now 24, was in grade 7 at Triomf Primary School in Salsoneville at the time.
In February 2014 the late judge Bonisile Sandi ordered the Road Accident Fund (RAF) to pay R8.9m to Bonnesse for loss of income and general damages.
He also directed the RAF to provide undertakings that it would pay separately for her full-time carers, wheelchair, motor vehicle expenses, and electronic equipment as these expenses arose.
For the past three years the lawyer who was appointed to handle her affairs, Morne Struwig, has been fighting with the RAF to pay these costs.
Bonnesse needs 24-hour care and is being looked after by her grandmother, Clara Bonnesse, and her mother Chantelle.
Struwig also bought a wheelchair for her, medical essentials like adult nappies, and a second-hand Transporter minibus. Bonnesse does not drive herself but has a driver to transport her around.
“She needed the vehicle for transport to therapy and general outings,” Struwig said.
He pointed out that as Bonnesse would probably have been driving an entry level vehicle valued at around R110,000, if she had not been injured, they only required the RAF to pay the difference between that value and the Transporter value.
On Monday, as the case was about to go to court, the RAF offered to pay for Bonnesse’s carers, her wheelchair and medical essentials, but not for the vehicle.
On Tuesday, advocate Neil Paterson, for the RAF, argued that his client did not believe Bonnesse to be “entitled” to have her vehicle paid for.
He said the RAF had only agreed to pay for transport-related expenses.
“Perhaps it is high time that we get a court judgment about the entitlement of plaintiffs to have the RAF buy vehicles for them,” he said.
Paterson said the RAF would not, for instance, pay for a person who lived in an informal settlement to buy a house in Mill Park or Summerstrand.
Helen Ayerst, for Bonnesse, said this was an opportunistic defence.
“The vehicle is a necessary expense. The amount is reasonable,” she said.
Acting judge Lee-Anne AhShene reserved judgment.