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VALPARAISO -- Four years after she was struck and injured by a vehicle on the eve of the Popcorn Festival, Nora Olsch has reached an out-of-court settlement totaling nearly $3 million, according to her attorney Kenneth Allen.

The 42-year-old Valparaiso woman was struck by a pizza delivery driver as she crossed Indiana Avenue near the Court Restaurant Sept. 8, 2000, said Allen.

She reportedly suffered herniated discs in her neck and lower back, an avulsion fracture of her left foot and a traumatic brain injury.

"We hope this settlement sends a clear message to all delivery persons that safety, not speed, should be their first priority," said Allen.

The lawsuit targeted driver Joseph Hengstler, then 17, and his employer, Greek's Pizzeria, said Allen. Olsch's husband, George, joined her in filing the civil lawsuit, which was assigned to Senior Judge Raymond Kickbush.

Valparaiso attorney Sam Bernardi, who helped to defend against the case, was unavailable Friday for comment.

"Mr. Hengstler testified that he was 'hurrying' to make a delivery and was convicted of failing to yield to a pedestrian and operating at a speed too fast for conditions," said Allen.

He said Olsch still suffers cognitive deficits and is in almost constant pain, though she was able to return to work.

The settlement will be paid out over Olsch's life, said Allen.

While these large settlements seem impressive, Allen said none of his clients would ever wish to suffer their injuries in return for the money.

"The only real justice would be to erase that day," he said, referring to the day of the accidents.

Bob Kasarda can be reached at bkasarda@nwitimes.com or (219) 462-5151, ext. 345.

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