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Allegheny County Jury Awards $15.8 Million to Family of Victim Injured by Work Zone Crash

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The family of Brenda Gump-Schragl, who was severely injured in an automobile accident in 2009, filed a lawsuit against the other driver in the accident, the construction company that was doing work on the road at the time, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The family claimed all three were negligent in the accident, and sought to recover damages.

On September 15, 2014, according to the Post Gazette, a jury in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court awarded the family a $15.8 million verdict.

Work Zone Crash Puts Plaintiff in a Coma

It was on June 11, 2009, when Brenda and her son, Daniel Gump, were driving Route 1 in Pleasant Hills. They were headed to Daniel’s sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner.

They entered a work zone. Daniel tried to turn left from the highway into a restaurant. Drivers were merging from two lanes into one, with oncoming traffic backed up in the left lane. Adam Mains was coming from the other direction in a pickup truck, but apparently did not see Gump because of the backed-up traffic. He ran into Gump’s car.

Brenda suffered severe injuries as a result of the crash. She was rushed to the hospital where she spent five weeks in a coma. She has since recovered, but has to rely on a walker to get around, and is suffering from a lack of short-term memory. Her daughter, who was scheduled to be married the day after the accident, postponed her wedding for a year.

Construction Zone Too Dangerous

The plaintiffs argued that the construction zone was not properly managed for safety. Several other collisions had occurred in the same area, and yet Lane Construction Corporation had not attempted to make any improvements.

A number of things can go wrong in a work zone. Construction companies are required to provide proper signage and warnings to be sure drivers are aware of the changes in the roadway with enough time to adjust. They are also supposed to follow regulations to be sure drivers don’t have to make turns that are too sharp, and that any uneven areas are well marked.

The plaintiffs noted that the company could have banned left turns in the area where the accident occurred. The defendants countered that they did provide adequate signage at the site, and that to make drivers wait until the next traffic light to turn left would not have allowed an adequate turning radius.

Construction Company Ordered to Pay

The driver of the pickup truck, Adam Mains, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, settled with the family prior to the trial. As a result, Lane Construction remains the sole responsible party for the $15.8 million verdict. (The case was filed before the 2011 Fair Share Act.) It is unclear at this point whether the company will appeal.