Fresno woman injured by raisin truck awarded $11.5 million

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

A woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury when a large piece of iron came crashing through her car windshield was awarded $11.5 million last week in a personal injury lawsuit.

The woman has no memory of the September 2010 accident, nor does she remember anything from the month before it and six weeks afterward. She continues to experience seizures and other problems from the injury, causing her to lose her driver's license and her job as a special assignment teacher with Fresno Unified School District. She also suffers from short-term memory loss and severe headaches. For these reasons, her attorney has said that while the $11.5 million verdict is the largest he's seen in his nearly 40 years of practicing law, every penny is warranted in her case.

The woman was driving alone on Highway 99 through Bakersfield on Sept. 17, 2010. She was following a tractor-trailer owned by Lion Raisins that was stacked with empty wooden raisin bins held together by cables. The cables wrapped around large iron corner pieces that were about 4 feet long. When the truck's load shifted, one of the iron corners flew off the truck, crashed through the woman's car windshield and into her "right skull and brain," her attorney explained. The car came to rest against the highway median divider after she lost control of it.

The woman ended up in "the lowest coma scale you can be in and live," her attorney said. Although she survived emergency surgery, her traumatic brain injury has resulted in "serious behavioral impairment" and a personality change, the attorney said.

The raisin company that owned the truck said in its trial brief that the woman had "a very impressive recovery" that included her returning to work for the district for the rest of that school year, even driving herself to work. Attorneys for the company and the driver said she could control her seizures and get her license back.

Jurors differed on their votes for the verdict, which was divided into seven different awards, including past and future medical expenses, past and future earnings losses and pain and suffering. Her husband was also awarded damages. As large as the total award was, the woman suffered a traumatic event that irreversibly changed her life. The money she received ensures that she won't suffer financially anymore due to an accident beyond her control.

Source: Mercury News, "Hit by piece of raisin truck, Fresno woman is awarded $11.5 million," John Ellis, March 23, 2012

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