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Family receives $54 million in crash settlement

Feb 11, 2002 | Daily Herald A Carol Stream family was awarded more than $54 million for severe injuries suffered when their car was struck by a train a year ago.

After deliberating about four hours, a Cook County jury on Friday ordered the Canadian National/Illinois Central Railroad to pay Fidel and Francisca Velarde $21.3 million. The jury awarded their daughter, Lilia Apulello, and her husband, Rafael, $34.4 million.

Both Apulello and her parents suffered severe brain injuries when their car was struck by a train Jan. 9, 2001, at the Army Trail Road railroad crossing in Bloomingdale, just west of Gary Avenue.

The warning gates were not working properly, the railroad company admitted in court. It had issued a warning to train crews to stop before going through the crossing, but the crew of the train involved in the accident was incorrectly told the warning had been rescinded, according to testimony.

Though the company accepted responsibility for the accident, railroad attorney John Kelly said Apulello, who was driving the car, could have avoided the accident if she had paid more attention to her surroundings.

Tim Cavanaugh, the Velardes' attorney, said he was pleased with the verdict but wasn't surprised.

"It was pretty clear from the start that the railroad made a mistake," he said. "The jury obviously understood and appreciated the impact of the injuries."

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