In our last post we discussed a personal injury case that allowed a woman to sue the town where she was injured in an accident on the basis that poor road conditions contributed to the crash. A separate car accident just outside Gilroy, California, led to a similar ruling that allowed a seriously injured woman to collect damages from the California Department of Transportation.
The crash happened in January 2009 as the woman was driving south on U.S. Highway 101 in Monterey County. A San Jose woman pulled out onto the highway from a side road in an attempt to turn left to travel north on 101. The oncoming car couldn't stop in time and rammed into the turning car. Both drivers survived, but the woman who rammed into the turning car suffered injuries so severe that she needed a wheelchair for several years. She's now starting to use a quad cane to get around.
The woman sued the other driver, who has since died from unrelated issues. But she also filed suit against Monterey County and the California Department of Transportation. The woman's attorney said the intersection where the accident happened is the most dangerous he's seen in 35 years of being a lawyer, adding that Caltrans has known for years through accident reports how dangerous it is, but did nothing to improve it. As a result of that argument, Caltrans settled with the woman for $3.75 million. Monterey County settled for $190,000 for its involvement in funding and controlling highway projects in the strip of 101 that runs through the county.
A spokesman for Caltrans said the intersection in question isn't among the top five most dangerous in that area of 101. He reasoned that the danger is in how drivers choose to drive through it. But in 2010 and 2011 there were 22 accidents reported there. Whether the settlement prompted a redesign isn't clear, but the spokesman said a new highway overpass at the intersection is scheduled to be completed by 2014.
The outcome of this case is positive for both the driver, who will likely need more surgeries and care for her injuries, and motorists who travel on Highway 101, which will soon see a much safer intersection where the accident occurred.
Source: Gilroy Dispatch, "Resident wins $4.55 million settlement for car accident," Carly Gelsinger, April 23, 2012
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