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Cal Fire Truck Blocking Part Of Fast Lane Causing Brain Injury

Settlement: $15 Million | Solano County Superior Court | Ragatz v. State of California, et al.

Defendant, Jeffrey Bravo, was a Cal Fire Communications Operator who was driving a Cal Fire Ford F350 Non-Emergency vehicle in the course and scope of his employment with the state of California. As he was headed northbound on Interstate 505, Bravo observed a vegetation fire on the west side of Interstate 505. He had not been dispatched or assigned to this fire, but he elected to move his vehicle from the right lane, cross the left lane and into the center median. His intention was to call in the vegetation fire and to assist the fire agencies who had already reported to the scene. In the process of bringing his vehicle to a stop, he stopped with the right rear portion of the Cal Fire Truck in the left lane, such that it was three feet protruding into that lane. He told the investigating CHP officer he had pulled completely out of the lane when the physical evidence as to the point of impact demonstrated he had stopped in the left lane. He testified that he pulled his vehicle completely off the roadway and into the center median as well.

Plaintiff Ragatz was northbound on Interstate 505, but has no recollection of the subject incident due to the severity of her brain injury. There are no witnesses who observed the actual impact, but it appeared from the physical damage and evidence on the roadway that the Ragatz vehicle struck the Cal Fire vehicle at freeway speed in the left portion of the left lane without any braking or skid marks preceding the impact. The front of her vehicle collided with the rear of the Cal Fire Vehicle.

Plaintiffs contend defendants were solely responsible for the incident and failed to clear the lane, failed to put on any type of emergency lights and created a hazard which resulted in the subject incident. Defendants contend the incident was solely the fault of the plaintiff and that she rear-ended the Cal Fire vehicle at freeway speed without any deceleration or attempt to maneuver around the subject vehicle. It was further contended that the state had immunity since the vehicle was involved in firefighting activities.

Plaintiff suffered a severe traumatic brain injury with intracranial parenchymal hemorrhage along with subarachnoid hemorrhage with numerous facial fractures, right humeral fracture, right femoral fracture, right comminuted patella fracture and multiple lacerations and contusions. At the scene and at UC Davis Medical Center the plaintiff had a Glasgow Coma Scale of three. As a result, and due to the severity of her injuries, it was considered that Ms. Ragatz would not survive her injuries. She underwent numerous operations both to her skull and to treat her orthopedic injuries. She ultimately regained consciousness and was able to be rehabilitated and eventually released from UC Davis Medical Center. Plaintiff was left with a significant brain injury and residual defects. Through rigorous rehabilitation at a variety of locations specializing in traumatic brain injury, the plaintiff made a miraculous recovery to the point where she ultimately was able to return to activities of daily living. She is able to take care of herself as long as she has constant and capable supervision. She still remains at serious risk due to her impulsive behavior and ongoing impairment of her memory, concentration and motor skills. She continues to have balance problems and challenges with interpersonal relationships.