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Man awarded $37 million; construction accident left him paralyzed

A construction worker who was paralyzed on the job eight years ago will receive a $37 million settlement from Caltrans.

A Humboldt County Superior Court jury awarded him $57 million two years ago and Caltrans appealed. The lower amount was agreed to between the two sides.

The worker was 20 at the time of the incident in 2011. He was working on a wiring project on Highway 101 in Eureka. He was crouched in a trench and a driver veered onto the shoulder of the road and hit him.

The jury found the driver was negligent but blamed Caltrans in full, agreeing it did not follow proper procedures to create a safe work site.

The victim also has “locked-in” syndrome, which means he is conscious and aware of his surroundings but can’t communicate. The movement in his eyes shows he knows when people enter the room and such.

The settlement will allow the man’s family to pay for the medical help he so desperately needs. It also will allow his family to pay for the technology that will allow him to communicate with his eyes movements.

“This case has been actively litigated for years,” a Caltrans spokesman said in a statement distributed by email. “The Department is hopeful this settlement agreement will allow both parties to reach closure on this tragic event.”

This accident on the construction site robbed this young man of his future and left his family to care for him as they all age. All parties have the ability to move forward now that the ongoing litigation has ended — and the victim may soon have a new way to communicate with the world once more.