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Family of Mass. State Trooper Gets $9 Million Settlement for Tunnel Crash

Paramedic and stretcher

By Jim Greene

on January 04, 2011

The family of a Massachusetts state trooper who bled to death when a guardrail in a Boston underground traffic tunnel severed his arm and broke his neck in a motorcycle crash will receive $9 million, as the result of a settlement reached with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and other defendants.

State Trooper Vincent Cila’s family blamed the design of the guardrails in the six miles of tunnels under Boston, known as the Big Dig, for contributing to his death, when he lost control of his police motorcycle and slammed into the railing on July 22, 2005.

The guardrails, previously criticized by federal officials, were also cited as a contributing factor in the deaths of six other people involved in tunnel crashes between 2005 and 2008.

Railing Meant to Protect Tunnel Workers

The railing is made of flat metal stock and was designed to keep workers from falling from a three-foot high maintenance walkway onto the roadway.

In their complaint, Cila’s family echoed other critics of the railing design who say the square edges of its components make it extremely sharp and its placement at about the height of a motorcycle seat or a car window guarantees serious injury or death by dismemberment in a crash.

The complaint said that Cila might have survived the crash if the railings were made of standard round metal stock. Cila family attorney Annette Gonthier-Kiely said Cila’s widow hoped the state would remove or modify the railings, to prevent others from being seriously injured or killed.

U.S. DOT Issued Warning in 1992

Court documents in the case show that the U.S. Department of Transportation warned the director of the Big Dig project in 1992 that the guardrails might be dangerous. The director responded that they were safe and rejected the DOT’s suggestion that crash tests be conducted.

The settlement did not address safety issues, nor were they acknowledged in a statement from the Massachusetts Transportation Department expressing regret over Cila’s death.

If you or someone you know has been killed or injured because of faulty design or construction of a public project, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. You may be eligible to receive financial compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, or loss of companionship.

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