Brain Damage Car Accident Victim Awarded $49 million damages

Car accidents resulting in serious personal injuries deserve adequate compensation. Charles R. “Chuck” Mullins represents accident victims in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi and all over the state.

A Santa Clara County jury this week awarded a former college student more than $49 million in damages, finding that two truckers and state transportation officials were to blame for a 2007 accident on Highway 152 that left him permanently brain damaged.

In one of the county’s largest personal injury verdicts in years, the jury late Monday sided with plaintiff Drew Bianchi, a 23-year-old Bakersfield man whose attorney presented evidence during a five-week trial that reckless driving by truckers on the perilous Pacheco Pass cost him a chance to go to medical school and left him needing round-the-clock medical care for the rest of his life.

Before the trial, the California Department of Transportation also agreed to pay Bianchi $10 million to settle claims against the state that were based on allegations that steps were not taken for years to correct safety issues on Highway 152. One trucking company settled with Bianchi for $2 million, bringing total damages in the case to more than $60 million.

“What the money represents is the terrible price associated with this,” said Randall Scarlett, Bianchi’s lawyer. “This is what it costs to rehabilitate an injury such as this.”
The verdict stems from the tragic collision on the morning of May 3, 2007, when Bianchi was in the back seat of a Toyota Avalon with three other men heading for a camping trip. Two trucks collided near the center line of the two-lane highway, with one veering into the rear of the Toyota and directly crushing the part of the car where Bianchi was riding.

The two primary defendants were Samuel Bimbela, a trucker who allegedly first drifted across the center line and triggered the accident; and Washington-based Gordon Trucking and its trucker, Michael Demma, who was accused of recklessly driving his truck, partly by talking on a cell phone, just before crashing into Bimbela.

The jury divvied up blame in the verdict, assessing 60 percent of the damages on Bimbela, and 35 percent to Gordon Trucking and its driver. The jury found the state 5 percent at fault. Salazar Trucking, Bimbela’s employer, settled for the $2 million, so its driver faced trial alone.

John Simonson, Bimbela’s lawyer, declined to comment. Gordon Trucking issued a statement saying its “driver did nothing to cause or contribute to the accident.”

In court papers filed just before trial, Gordon’s lawyers blamed Bimbela and Caltrans for the accident. Court documents show that Bimbela’s lawyers also denied liability, saying Caltrans’ failure to improve safety conditions along Pacheco Pass’s “blood alley” were a significant cause of the accident. Bimbela denied responsibility, saying it was Demma who crossed the center line and caused the trucks to collide.

At the time of the accident, Bianchi was finishing up community college in Bakersfield and preparing to start at the University of California, Davis. He’s now in a full-time neurological treatment center in Bakersfield.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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