Redondo Beach Personal Injury Attorney
Personal injury lawsuits come in many different forms. Sometimes, a single person can commit a negligent act that results in significant losses and even fatal injuries to multiple people. Each of the victims would have grounds for a personal injury claim against the negligent party who caused their damages. Unfortunately, one such case occurred a few years ago in Redondo Beach, and the case has finally reached a settlement.
In 2014, a woman named Margo Bronstein negligently killed four people at the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and Vincent Street in Redondo Beach when she ran a red light, striking a group of pedestrians attempting to cross the highway. The victims included Saeko Matsumura, 87, Mary Ann Wilson, 81, Martha Gaza, 36, and her six-year-old son Samuel, all Torrance residents. The group was leaving a Christmas concert held at the nearby St. James Catholic School in Redondo Beach.
Bronstein claimed she blacked out from extreme neck pain immediately before the accident, and later pleaded no contest to four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Laura F. Priver sentenced Bronstein in June 2016 to three years and four months in prison. The case finally reached a settlement with the victims’ families and others hurt and traumatized by the incident in March of 2020.
Many local residents were shocked at such a seemingly light sentence for such an extreme act of negligence with fatal consequences for four innocent people, and many Redondo Beach residents were also surprised to hear the final outcome of the case settlement, reached between the plaintiffs and Bronstein and the California Department of Transportation, which was also named in the lawsuit due to the inherently dangerous condition of the intersection where the accident occurred.
The Outcome of the Case
The California Department of Transportation and the legal representatives of Bronstein collectively agreed to a settlement of $295,000 in the lawsuit, $30,000 of which would be Bronstein’s responsibility to pay. The state will pay the remaining $265,000, which will be divided among the 12 plaintiffs in the case.
This is an example of how a personal injury lawsuit, especially one against a government entity like the Department of Transportation, can be a complex issue with an uncertain outcome, despite the apparent clarity of the evidence in play.
Suing a Government Agency
Most personal injury claims that take place in California deal with matters between private individuals and privately owned business entities. Generally, it is not possible to file a civil claim against most government agencies due to sovereign immunity, the legal protection in place for many federal and state-level government agencies. However, while it may not be possible to directly file a personal injury claim against some government agencies, there are legal procedures for obtaining compensation if a government-controlled entity is liable for a plaintiff’s damages.
In this case, the Department of Transportation was named as a defendant in the plaintiffs’ Complaint because of the dangerous conditions at the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and Vincent Avenue that local residents had complained about for quite some time. The seemingly low amount of compensation awarded to the plaintiffs of this lawsuit is due to the Department of Transportation’s sovereign immunity protections.
Timeline of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
This tragic case is also a prime example of how long personal injury lawsuits can potentially take to reach their legal conclusions. In this situation, it took two years for sentencing on the criminal matter and nearly five years for the civil matter to reach a settlement. If you are expecting to file a personal injury lawsuit in the near future, it’s a good idea to know what the process might entail.
First, the plaintiff in the personal injury lawsuit files a formal complaint with the court, and the court, in turn, serves the Complaint to the defendant named therein. Next, the defendant has the opportunity to offer a Response to the Complaint, and the two parties may proceed with settlement negotiations. In the recent Redondo Beach personal injury lawsuit, the civil case coincided with criminal proceedings against Bronstein, which understandably lengthened the legal process on both the civil and criminal sides of the matter.
Once settlement negotiations begin for a personal injury claim, it’s typically in the best interests of both the plaintiff and the defendant to reach a mutually agreeable settlement without resorting to litigation. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. If settlement negotiations fail, or if the civil claim aligns with criminal proceedings against the defendant, it is highly likely the case will proceed to litigation and trial.
If you are unsure about your current personal injury claim or need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your case, contact McLachlan Law, APC to schedule a consultation with our team.