South Africa is experiencing a spate of road accidents involving children,” relates Michael de Broglio of de Broglio Attorneys, “frequently in buses or other mass transit vehicles. But it often happens that little ones are knocked down by speeding or reckless drivers right outside their own schools – the places where they are supposed to feel safe and nurtured.”
Khethiwe, who was seven years old at the time, was struck by a Toyota Corolla in front of her school in Pretoria North in 2006. She sustained a fractured ankle in the accident, but the psychological scarring has gone much deeper than any physical injuries could.
Once a bright child with an interest in modelling and dancing, she has now abandoned those activities. She feels sad and cries when other children tease her about her disfigured leg, and is uncomfortable and self-conscious about her injury.
De Broglio’s psychologist reported that when the young girl sees an accident scene, she screams and covers her head, and tends to panic and run away whenever she hears sirens and ambulances approaching.
It is now more difficult for Khethiwe to relate to other children than before, and her learning ability has also become impaired.
The matter was set down for trial in the Pretoria High Court in May 2009. However, legal counsel for de Broglio Attorneys and the Road Accident Fund’s counsel agreed on a settlement of R300 000 in the absence of any instruction from the Fund, and this amount was subsequently made an order of the court.
“Negligent drivers should realise that even a minor accident can have a major impact on a child’s psychological development,” de Broglio points out. “These are their formative years, and they are very impressionable and vulnerable. An accident is over in seconds, but its aftermath can remain with them for the rest of their lives.”
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality