A former Gilroy resident who endured a debilitating car accident in 2009 on U.S. 101 in Monterey County near the Red Barn flea market has won a $4.55 million settlement from Caltrans, the estate of the other driver and Monterey County.
Anna Reznik, 69, suffered severe injuries and was forced to use a wheelchair for several years after the accident. She is now beginning to use a quad-cane to get around, said her lawyer, Boris Efron. Her passenger, Olga Tarcher, the 91-year-old Gilroy woman that Reznik cared for full time, died at the scene.
On Jan. 20, 2009, Reznik was driving southbound on U.S. 101 when another driver, Yong Ae Bowman of San Jose, pulled out in front of her as she tried to turn left to travel northbound on 101 from San Juan Road.
Reznik was unable to stop and plowed into Bowman. Bowman survived the crash, but has since died from unrelated issues.
“This is the most dangerous intersection I’ve seen in 35 years of being a lawyer,” Efron said, who specializes in personal injury and liability litigation.
Efron said that for years Caltrans has known how dangerous the intersection was because of many accident reports, but did nothing to make the intersection safer. Caltrans settled with Reznik for $3.75 million. Bowman’s estate is to pay $610,000 for misjudging gaps in traffic, and Monterey County settled for $190,000 for their involvement in funding and controlling highway projects from Prunedale to the Red Barn area – for a total of $4.55 million.
He said that to make the intersection safer, drivers should not be able to turn left across traffic on a busy, fast-moving U.S. 101.
“Caltrans said ‘well that would be inconvenient,’ but I think a little inconvenience is OK if it saves lives,” Efron said.
California Highway Patrol spokesman Robert Lehman said that the San Juan Road intersection is not in the top five most dangerous intersections in the strip of U.S. 101 from Prunedale to San Juan Road.
In 2010 and 2011 there were 22 total accidents at the San Juan Road intersection, Lehman said.
“Really when it comes down to it, the intersection isn’t inherently dangerous, it’s how drivers choose to operate it,” Lehman said.
Lehman said that by 2014, Caltrans will have completed a highway over-pass on the San Juan Road intersection.
As for Reznik, Efron said things are looking up.
“This money will ensure Anna has the income she needs to pay for the many more surgeries and medical treatments she’ll likely have in the coming years,” he said.
While no longer a Gilroy resident, Reznik still seeks medical treatment at the South County Pain and Rehab Med on Monterey Street, which Efron said is one of the best rehabilitation clinics in the state.