Passenger Gets $650K After Van Launches Over Guardrail
Arbitration Decision for Plaintiff After Crash- New Madrid, Missouri
An arbitration panel has found $650K in damages against the state transportation department in a crash arising from an allegedly unsafe guardrail. The amount was reduced to the statutory cap.
Andrew Mundwiller of The Cagle Law Firm represented the plaintiff who was a passenger in a minivan driven by the plaintiff’s co-worker. The minivan launched over the roadway fencing before going down an embankment and crashing into a utility pole after the driver lost control during a turn.
The two were traveling to assist flood victims when the crash occurred in August of 2012. Plaintiff’s attorneys alleged the state had not properly maintained the guardrail on Route WW in New Madrid County. Additionally, Plaintiff’s attorneys alleged the guardrail was not at the appropriate height.
Plaintiff suffered fractures to her hip and ribs as well as knee injuries and facial lacerations. According to Mundwiller, “She had a fracture that was evident right at the site.”
The Plaintiff brought suit against the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. Mundwiller said the defense contended that current standards did not require the rail and that the Corps of Engineers wouldn’t give them permits to do the earthwork in the area anyway. “What we showed was that they had internal emails that went back and forth years before the accident which indicated they had done some dirt work in the area in the past……without the Corps of Engineers permission,” said Mundwiller.
As well, Mundwiller said the commission’s primary defense was arguing that the angel at which the vehicle struck the rail would have rendered it ineffective anyway. The defense claimed it was struck nearly perpendicular while the plaintiff argued it was closer to a 45-degree angle.
“As far as the angle of the impact, that kind of became a battle of experts, ” said Mundwiller, “Most of the time, when a vehicle is hitting a guardrail, it is a glancing blow. You sideswipe it a little bit. There are not many times when vehicles encounter it head-on or a 45-degree angle”
Mundwiller dismissed the idea that the rail wasn’t necessary and said the commission’s own plans called for a guardrail at the site. Also, Mundwiller contended that the commission’s measurements of the slope of the hill were not taken directly at the accident site but farther down the road.
The rail was removed after the accident. The panel issued a 2-1 decision in favor of the Plaintiff, though the award was reduced to $414,418 by the statutory cap. A total of 77 percent of the damages went to Plaintiff and 23 percent went to Plaintiff’s husband who made a claim for loss of consortium and expenses due to his wife’s medical bills.
As well the co-worker’s auto insurance carrier settled for an additional $25,000. The pair’s employer also named in the suit was later dismissed.