$2.5 million awarded to woman and children in bridge collapse


It's an awful lot of money, $2.5 million, but it can't cover what has been lost: a daughter's health and, subsequently, a husband's life.

But for Janice Bulmer, the money will pay for the current and future needs of her daughter, Kimberly Sue Andersen, who suffered severe brain damage in 1989 when a bridge over the Baltimore-Washington Parkway collapsed on her car, and for the needs of Ms. Andersen's two daughters.

"We suffered great losses. Not only did my daughter have this accident that changed her life, but my husband died also," said Mrs. Bulmer. "There's no amount of money that can make up for that."

Last Thursday Mrs. Bulmer's daughter received a $2.5 million settlement to compensate for injuries suffered in the 1989 accident, which put Ms. Andersen, 32, in a coma, for several weeks.

Ms. Andersen has since recovered to the point where she can do occasional volunteer work and arts and crafts, but the one-time secretary will never work at a professional level again.

"The terrible thing about this is that the injury was devastating, and the whole incident was tragic," said Henry E. Weil, one of Ms. Andersen's attorneys. "The money provides nothing more than financial relief, which is, I guess, all that can be expected in this disaster."

According to Mr. Weil and his co-counsel, Kathleen M. Cahill, a portion of the initial cash settlement of $2.5 million will be placed in an investment fund. In all, the settlement is expected to pay about $5.3 million over Ms. Andersen's lifetime. Though the final specifics of the award have not been worked out, Mr. Weil said that about $900,000 will be invested and that the fund should pay Ms. Andersen about $5,000 per month.

Mrs. Bulmer, who has taken over guardianship of Ms. Andersen and her two daughters, said the young girls, who will be entering first and third grades this fall, recently completed a year of counseling to help them deal with their mother's accident.

Compounding the difficulties, said Mrs. Bulmer, is the fact that her husband died shortly after the accident. She said she believed that his death from heart trouble was directly related to stress after the accident.

A turning point in the case, which was scheduled for trial in October in U.S. District Court, came early last week after attorneys for both sides met to schedule future pretrial procedures such as taking depositions, arranging for medical examinations and exchanging documents. Two days later, the case was settled.

"I'm glad it's over and that we didn't have to go to trial, because I didn't want to rehash this thing over and over again," said Mrs. Bulmer, who also said the settlement brought her no sense of vindication or satisfaction. "I'd rather have my daughter and my husband back."

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