Crippled by a pothole


She lost her dream of becoming a hairdresser and almost lost her life the day her car hit a pothole in Pretoria 14 years ago.

But Annemarie Jacobs retained her fighting spirit.

Advised to have her badly mutilated left leg amputated she fought to keep it, and succeeded. Told she’d never walk again she clung to the belief she would.

And two years after the 1996 accident she walked down the aisle with her school sweetheart, Charles.

Now Annemarie (33) has won a legal wrangle that started shortly before she married. The North Gauteng High Court recently agreed the City of Tshwane should pay half of her claim for injuries and medical costs.

Her lawyers estimate the compensation will be more than R1 million.

‘‘I’m just so thankful it’s almost over,’’ Annemarie says.

As a result of her injuries her mouth is slightly crooked when she speaks and her speech isn’t always distinct. She has scars on her legs and is in constant pain.

She was on her way to visit a friend in Montana, Pretoria, when her car hit the huge pothole.

She lost control of the car, collided with a tree and was in a coma for two weeks. She still needs a hip and knee replacement but is postponing the operations as long as possible.

In 2008 attorney Sonette Boning took up her case. It took her two years to reach agreement with the municipality, which was recently ratified by the high court in Pretoria.

‘‘It’s the municipality’s tactic to make life as difficult as possible for claimants so they’ll throw in the towel along the way,’’ Boning says.

‘‘Then they drag everything out with every technical trick in the book.’’

Claims for damage caused by potholes aren’t common in South Africa, Boning says, probably because people don’t know they can claim.

‘‘Our roads are falling apart and people are inclined to accept it as inevitable.’’

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