The Road Accident Fund (RAF) was ordered to pay R1.2 million in damages to a teenager who was run over by a car as she crossed a street 13 years ago, and subsequently suffered brain damage.
The RAF disputed that the child’s inability to cope with her schooling, her mood swings and her post-traumatic stress disorder were a result of the accident.
An educational psychologist told the Pretoria High Court that in her opinion, the neurological problems now associated with the 16-year-old, were due to her being born prematurely.
The child, who may not be identified as she is a minor, was 3 when she was run over in a rural area in the Eastern Cape in 2001.
Her mother, who claimed more than R2m on behalf of her child, testified earlier that her daughter crossed a road with her cousin, to greet people. The child turned around and ran back, and was struck by a car.
She was unconscious and only regained consciousness 30 minutes later, en route to hospital, when she started crying.
She suffered a broken leg and brain injury and was admitted to hospital for a month.
Various experts testified on behalf of the child and said it was clear from tests and assessments that she had suffered a focal brain injury.
They said she had been healthy before to the accident, but now struggled academically with reading, writing and mathematics.
It was said that her brain injury had rendered her more vulnerable and that she would one day struggle in the open market.
Emotionally she developed an adjustment disorder, depression and features of post-traumatic stress disorder, the court was told.
An educational psychologist, who testified on behalf of the RAF, however, gave “startling” evidence by saying that in her opinion all the problems stemmed from the fact that the child was prematurely born.
She explained that this caused complications which could cause such neuro-psychological defects as identified in the child.
The expert said the child’s problems were typical of the difficulties experienced by children who were subjected to pre-natal problems or premature birth.
She told Acting Judge Solly Sithole that it was improbable that the child’s injuries were the result of the accident.
She was accused by the child’s advocate of speculating and grabbing her findings out of the air, which she denied.
The judge, however, found her to be a poor witness who “adopted insubstantial speculation and untenable methods of reasoning in arriving at her opinions”. Judge Sithole remarked that her unwillingness to concede “the most obvious of propositions” raised doubt about her impartiality and objectivity.
Meanwhile, in ordering that the RAF should pay the child’s damages, he ruled that this money had to go into a trust to maintain her in future.