Recently, a workers’ compensation case in California made headlines. The defendant in this case was Caltrans, also known as the California Department of Transportation. The plaintiff was a man who was gravely injured due to the negligence of Caltrans. He will never be the same physically, but thanks to the $37 million verdict, he will have the funds to cover the cost of his ongoing medical care for many years to come.

Injured on the Job

In 2011, Kyle Anderson, then 20-years-old, was working as a contractor on a Caltrans roadway project, placing wire on Highway 101. Unlike similar roadway construction projects where the lane nearest the construction workers is shut down, Caltrans insisted the entire roadway remain open. In an effort to protect themselves, a construction worker parked a piece of machinery on the highway to block the lane.  Sadly, Caltrans forced the worker to remove the protective equipment. As a result, the workers had no protection from the passing cars.  Furthermore, there was no way to prevent drivers from getting too close to the men/women on the job.

Locked-in Syndrome

Due to the lack of protection, and without any warning to avoid the car, Anderson was struck by a car and was left paralyzed.  The extent of his injuries left him with a unique brain injury known as “Locked-in Syndrome.” Patients with this syndrome are cognizant but completely unable to move or communicate. Brain scans have shown Anderson can comprehend what he sees and hears, is able to track visitors with his eyes, and is sometimes able to blink on command. However, he cannot move at all, not even to speak. Anderson will need very specialized medical care for the rest of his life.

The Verdict Showed Clear Negligence

Although the driver of the vehicle that hit Anderson was partially to blame for his injuries, a jury found Caltrans to be negligent and awarded Anderson 37 million dollars.  Caltrans should have closed down the lane nearest the workers for their protection.  Caltrans appealed the case all the way to the California Supreme Court.  Just recently, their appeal was denied and they must pay Anderson the 37 million dollars. The lesson here is that no matter how large and powerful the employer is, they can still be found responsible for workplace injuries.

Have you been injured on the job? If so, call me right away and I’ll Make Them Pay!®

Workplace Accidents