A Los Angeles teenager who lost both her legs in a freeway auto accident after her car hit a broken metal guardrail, will get $10 million from the state of California. According to a news article in the San Jose Mercury News, Priscilla Contreras was driving home in 2006 when she lost control of her car and hit the metal railing on the 10 Freeway.
Her family reportedly sued Caltrans for creating a dangerous condition on the freeway, failing to repair public property and not giving drivers and motorists enough warning about this clearly dangerous situation. Both parties reached a settlement March 6, the day the trial was set to begin. They had been embroiled in this legal battle for two years.
Plaintiff’s attorneys in this case had two key pieces of evidence. One was a work order that called for the guardrail to be repaired immediately. That work order was apparently ignored. The other was a compilation of 20 injury accident reports that occurred at the same location over the previous two years.
Caltrans in this case should’ve settled right away instead of dragging this family through the court system for two years and waiting until the day of the jury trial to settle. Haven’t they put the teenager and her family through enough over these two years? Priscilla Contreras would rather have the use of her legs back than this $10 million check. Her job opportunities will now be limited and she will have to depend on someone for the rest of her life. Will $10 million cover that? No.
But the money in such a settlement will hopefully compensate the girl and her family for the tragic loss and help draw attention to the problems that exist on our freeways. Caltrans ignored a work order to repair that dangerous roadway condition. They repeatedly ignored accidents and injuries caused by the broken guardrail. As always, it took a major injury and loss for the agency to open its eyes. And hopefully, this hit in the pocket book will help garner their attention the next time a similar work order sits on their desk. It’ll save lives for sure.