In one of the largest personal injury settlements in Orange County history, the city of Dana Point has settled with the families of Stacy Neria and Carol Daniel. These two women were paralyzed after this tragic accident and are facing a lifetime of suffering and medical bills. The city settled the day before it was scheduled to go to trial.
The two women were jogging on April 8, 2006 with two other friends when a transient, William Todd Bradshaw hit them from behind as he attempted to pass another driver on the right. Bradshaw, who fled the scene, was on probation at the time for three DUI offenses. He was arrested several days later; was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
The impact of the accident was so great that Carol Daniel was thrown 60 feet. She also suffered a broken neck, pelvis and severed of one of her legs. Her friend, Stacy Neria, suffered a fractured skull, broken legs, pelvis, and facial bones. Both women are now quadriplegics and face a lifetime of challenges.
The area that the accident occurred in was located on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) near Palisades Drive in Capistrano Beach. Normally known for its Pacific Ocean vistas over rocky bluffs, it is now known for several serious accidents and two bicycle fatalities. One reason for the accidents was that the bike lane was simply too wide and motorists didn’t realize it was bike lane because of improper markings.
As far back as 2002, the City of Dana Point knew that these bike lanes were unsafe based on expert testimony in previous depositions. The city’s master plan states clearly that no bike lane should be over 8 feet wide. On this stretch of PCH, the width varied between 9 and 12 feet and there were no bike lane markings. It was basically an oversized bike lanes with no markings-an accident waiting to happen.
After the accident, the city council approved construction of a wall between the traffic and joggers along the section where these two ladies were injured. However, this was a temporary solution. The city is now building a new, ten foot wide bike and pedestrian pathway that will carry traffic in both directions. It will be approximately one and one half miles long and curve along PCH on the ocean side. A three foot high concrete wall will protect bikers, walkers and joggers from vehicles and it is expected to be complete this month.
As for the women and their families, they face many challenges in the future. It took only a split second to change their lives forever. Both women have three children each and miss their active roles of being an involved mom at home. Their husbands have both quit their jobs and have become their full-time caregivers. The money will not bring back their health, but it will ease the stress of mounting medical bills and more importantly, force the city to build protective barriers so this type of tragic accident will not happen again.
Sometimes, when we read articles and stories of injury and the amount of money they recover in a lawsuit, some feel the injury does not warrant the financial recovery. In this case, the financial recovery will likely be depleted, as rising health care costs , nursing, and medications to attend to a quadraplegc rise about 22% per year on average. Remember 30 years ago when gas was 10 cents, a house was $30,000 dollars and going to the doctor was $20.00 dollars? All those things have risen 200 times the cost of yesteryear. Not surprisingly, so has the cost of health care and the verdicts to compensate victims. We should always be willing to err on the side of fully compensating victims, not forgetting the cost increases they face in the next 30 years.