$20 Million Settlement Reached Where Inadequate Guardrail Leads to Motorist’s Permanent Tetraplegia and Brain Damage

Lizeth Pimentel, age 24, approached a bridge in Long Beach, Calif., while driving her SUV. The bridge was undergoing a seismic retrofit, which necessitated lane closures and led to traffic backups. As she drove onto the bridge, several vehicles in front of her stopped without warning. She lost control of her SUV, crossed several lanes of traffic and struck the bridge’s handrail, plummeting with her vehicle into the Los Angeles River 40 feet below. Pimentel was submerged in her vehicle for about 30 minutes, was in a coma for 8 months and sustained anoxic brain damage as a result of the incident.

Pimentel, who had been a clerk earning about $10 an hour, now suffers from permanent tetraplegia. Tetraplegia is also known as quadriplegia where there is a total loss of use of all four limbs and the torso. Compared to paraplegia, although similar, it does not affect the arms.

Pimentel and her husband filed a lawsuit against the general contractor for the project, Riverside Construction Co., the subcontractor that designed the project’s traffic control plan, FPL & Associates Inc., the City of Long Beach and the subcontractor resident engineer, TCM Group Inc.

The lawsuit claimed that these defendants chose not to comply with the project’s traffic control plan by implementing improper lane closure, failed to install a proper guardrail and chose not to implement lane closures during non-peak travel times.

The defendants argued that Pimentel was the sole cause of the crash in that she failed to maintain a proper lookout and was speeding in a vehicle equipped with mismatched tires.

In spite of the defendants’ efforts to defend this case, they settled before trial as follows:

• FPL paid $1 million;
• TCM paid $7 million; and
• City of Long Beach and Riverside Construction settled for a total of $12 million.

The total settlement amount was $20 million.

The attorneys representing Lizeth Pimentel were Stanley K. Jacobs and Karen Mezger.

The Pimentel attorneys engaged experts in traffic engineering, accident reconstruction, human factors, rehabilitation and economics. The defendants engaged experts in accident reconstruction, life-care planning and neurology.

Pimentel-Avalos v. City of Long Beach, No. NC 55526 (Cal. Super. Ct. Los Angeles County, Feb. 13, 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling car accident cases, truck accident cases, motorcycle accident cases, construction worksite injury cases, catastrophic injury cases and bicycle accident cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Naperville, New Lenox, Rosemont, Sauk Village, LaGrange Park, Hickory Hills, Arlington Heights, Blue Island, Chicago Heights, South Holland, Countryside, Country Club Hills, Elgin, Geneva, Aurora, Maywood, Melrose Park, Morton Grove and Wheeling, Ill.

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