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Injured Car Passenger Gets $1.6 Million due to 'Optical Illusion'

When can a passenger in a car with a driver who fails to observe a left-hand curve in a road and instead continues straight and plunges over an 8-foot embankment into a ditch recover from the county for her significant injuries caused by the crash? When modifications to the road create an "optical illusion" that the road continues straight.

Via Law and Magic I found this post on Deceptology discussing the case of Gunderson v. County of San Diego, in which the injured passenger received a $1.6 million settlement from the county, as well as the county's agreement to make extensive changes to the road to help keep future motorists from driving off the embankment.

According to plaintiff's counsel Richard Huver and Karin Wick, Mussey Grade Road in Ramona, Calif., was originally constructed to "continue straight, intersecting with State Route 67. However, the road was re-aligned in 1992 to create a left-hand curve." The plaintiff argued that these modifications created an optical illusion because "drivers approaching the curve at night see a traffic signal, flashing yellow lights, as well as headlights in the distance, giving the impression that the road continues straight." The plaintiff also showed that there had been six collisions over a seven-year period before the Gunderson accident.

I've attempted to use Google Maps below to illustrate the illusion. It appears to me that the driver allegedly failed to see the left-hand curve (shown by the red circle) because, in the dark, Mussey Grade Road appeared to go straight into Julian Road -- an illusion caused by the traffic signal in the distance (as shown by the yellow circle).


Plaintiff's counsel says that in January 2011, the county installed an "Advance Curve Ahead" warning sign and a large "Sharp Curve and Stop Ahead" sign, installed a flashing yellow beacon to warn drivers of the curve, and also erected a fence to eliminate the optical illusion.

Posted by Bruce Carton on March 8, 2011 at 06:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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