A woman is to receive almost $15 million compensation for a back injury on a bus after the vehicle on which she was travelling went over a speed bump at twice the legal speed limit.
On 27 August 2011, Maria Francisco (20) from Richmond in California, her four-year-old daughter Mia and other members of her family were passengers on a bus operated by Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (“AC Transit”), traveling to the local mall to buy presents for a birthday celebration.
As the bus was passing a school zone, it hit a speed bump at 30mph – twice the legal speed limit – and Maria was pitched into the air, landing awkwardly against the edge of the plastic seat. Maria´s family asked the bus driver – Dollie Gilmore – to stop and summon an ambulance, but instead Gilmore verbally abused Maria and accused her of feigning her injury.
An ambulance was eventually called, and Maria was taken to the John Muir Medical Center where she was diagnosed with a severe burst fracture to her L1 vertebra. Maria has had to undergo three surgeries – including the fusion of her lower vertebra – still suffers from chronic pain and is severely limited in her daily activities.
After seeking legal advice, Maria made a claim for compensation for a back injury on a bus against AC Transit who – despite the presence of a CCTV camera in the bus clearly showing the accident and the verbal abuse that Maria endured subsequently – denied their liability for her injuries until two days before the claim for a back injury on a bus was scheduled to be heard before Hon. Gail Brewster Bereola at the Superior Court of California in Alameda County.
Maria´s attorneys recommended that she reject the proposed $2.75 million out-of-court settlement, and the trial went ahead – with AC Transit arguing that the extent of Maria´s back injury was exaggerated, that the surgery she underwent was unnecessary and that she was perfectly able to continue the normal life of a mother with a young child.
However the jury disagreed with AC Transit´s arguments and, after seeing the videotape of the accident, awarded Maria $10 million compensation for a back injury on a bus, with an additional $3.3 million for past and future medical expenses, $800,000 for future loss of earnings and $127,000 for past lost family services. The jury also awarded Maria´s four-year-old daughter Mia $1 million compensation for the emotional distress she had suffered relating to her mother´s accident.