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California Excavation Worker Injured After Driver Hit Him Receives $56 Million Jury Verdict

A recent jury verdict from Northern California provided a measure of justice for a man severely injured while he was working at a California Department of Transportation road work site when a driver struck him. The jury award exceeded $56.5 million, according to a Sacramento Bee report. The outcome of the case provides a clear illustration of the benefit of pursuing all of those potentially responsible for your damages. In this case, while the driver was negligent, it was CalTrans, rather than the driver, who was 100% to blame for the man’s injuries.


The plaintiff in the case was a 20-year-old employee of an excavation company. The worker was working on a CalTrans project along Highway 101 in Eureka when, one morning in 2011, disaster struck. While the worker was crouched in a trench, a driver drifted onto the shoulder of the road, hitting the worker.

The injuries he suffered were massive. The crash left him paralyzed and unable to speak. According to the Bee report, the worker has “’locked in’ syndrome, a condition in which a person is conscious but unable to communicate.” While the man is aware of his surroundings, he is “imprisoned in his mind,” his attorney said.

The injured worker sued the driver who hit him. Assuming he proved that she drifted outside her lane, her driving would clearly be negligent unless there were exceptional circumstances to explain her leaving her lane. However, simply because a person is negligent does not necessarily make her liable. To be liable, a person must be negligent, and her negligence must be a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries.

With that in mind, the injured worker didn’t stop at suing the driver. He also sued CalTrans, alleging that the department was liable by failing to put proper safety precautions in place. The department could have closed a lane of the highway, or it could have parked a large vehicle near the trench to protect workers, but it allowed none of these things, according to the worker’s lawsuit. In fact, according to a Lost Coast Outpost report, the plaintiff’s employer had sought approval for a lane closure, but that lane closure was canceled at the last minute by a CalTrans engineer. The excavating company placed a backhoe near the site to protect the workers, but another CalTrans engineer ordered that vehicle moved. A few hours later, this accident occurred.

The Humboldt County jury sided with the plaintiff in this case. The jury assessed 100% of the blame for the worker’s injuries to CalTrans. The driver who hit the plaintiff was negligent, but her negligent act was not a substantial factor in causing the man’s injuries, according to the jury. The award totaled in excess of $56 million. The man’s past and future medical expenses award was $20 million, his lost earnings award was $1.6 million, and his non-financial suffering award was $35 million.

If you or a loved one is injured in a vehicle accident, you need knowledgeable counsel on your side to help you choose a wise path for your case. The experienced San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have spent many years working on behalf of injured people and are here to help you. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

State’s Failure to Make Changes to Redondo Beach Intersection Leads to Multi-Million Dollar Jury Award for Former UCLA Football Player, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Jan. 18, 2017

Southern California Jury Hands Down $26M Verdict in Case of Teen’s Wrongful Death Aboard Sightseeing Bus, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Jan. 4, 2017

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