In August 2011, a tragic, preventable construction accident left 20-year-old Kyle Anderson a quadriplegic with “locked-in syndrome.” Kyle is aware of the happenings around him but cannot communicate with anyone. Since the accident, Kyle hasn’t been able to tell his family he loves them or his doctors what hurts. Eight years after being hit by a car while working for a Caltrans contractor, Kyle accepted a Caltrans settlement that will pay for the extensive care he needs for the rest of his life.
Jury Found Caltrans 100% Liable for Personal Injuries on Construction Site
Kyle’s case is unique for two reasons. First, a Humboldt County jury found Caltrans 100% liable in the case. Second, this is the largest known settlement award from Caltrans to an individual.
Liability in construction accident personal injury cases is usually shared among several different people or companies responsible for managing a construction site. In Kyle’s case, the jury found that Caltrans created a dangerous condition at the worksite and was, therefore, responsible for 100% of the injuries.
The parties reached a settlement agreement after Caltrans appealed the jury’s $56.5 million award to Kyle. Rather than going through another trial and delaying compensation, Kyle and his parents agreed to a settlement of $37.35. The lifetime cost of Kyle’s care is at least $18 million, according to a plan developed by Kyle’s doctors. A settlement means that the family has the funds needed for his care.
Personal Injury Attorneys Explain Construction Accident Liability
Around 1 am on August 31, 2011, a woman struck Kyle with her car as he worked in a trench in the shoulder of Broadway and Highway 101. He was there because his employer, All Phase Excavating, was repairing an underground cable damaged when Caltrans failed to properly mark the cable location for contractors.
Caltrans claimed that the driver who ran over Kyle was responsible for the accident and they alleged that she was driving under the influence. Police reports and testimony did not support Caltrans’ story. In contrast, the jury found that Caltrans was entirely responsible for Kyle’s injuries because their engineers’ decisions put him in jeopardy.
The two-foot by two-foot trench was on the shoulder of Broadway. A week before the start date, All Phase Excavating requested and received permission to close the lane next to the shoulder to protect workers. However, on the night of the project, the resident engineer for Caltrans (who was not at the worksite) told the contractor the lane could not be closed.
Since he was ordered not to close the lane, the site manager placed an approved barrier vehicle, an 18,000-pound backhoe, in a position that would protect workers in the trench from traffic. Caltrans also rejected this safety measure—about 20 minutes before the repairs were completed, a Caltrans assistant resident engineer who was not assigned to the project came to the site and ordered the backhoe removed. He later admitted he was unaware that a backhoe was an approved barrier vehicle.
The engineer ordered the contractor to place a light tower where the backhoe had been, with the lights shining toward oncoming drivers. Within an hour, a driver was blinded by the lights, drove into the shoulder, and hit Kyle, who was in the trench.
The jury found that this series of negligent decisions by Caltrans engineers—denying the lane closure, ordering the backhoe removal, and directing the light tower placement—caused Kyle to suffer a severe brain injury that left him a quadriplegic.
Kyle’s personal injury attorney Russ Reiner said, “Caltrans wouldn’t have agreed to a $37.3 million settlement if the evidence didn’t show it was liable for Anderson’s injuries.”
Victim’s Parents Hope to Prevent Future Accidents
In addition to making several dangerous decisions on the night of the accident, Caltrans failed to follow its own rules about accident investigation and safety meetings. Based on incorrect information from the engineers, Caltrans closed its internal investigation 10 hours after the crash. No safety meetings occurred to analyze the cause of the accident, and Caltrans employees did not learn any safety lessons from the tragedy.
Kyle’s parents, Matt and Robin Anderson, who care for Kyle 24-7, said, “It is our family’s hope that Caltrans management will learn from what our son is going through and strive to safely ensure that other families will not be forced to endure what Kyle will suffer the remainder of his life.”
“While it was imperative to get Kyle the lifetime care he requires, this case is also about making sure that Caltrans follows its own rules to prevent future construction site accidents,” said Reiner, who represented Kyle and his parents.
What the Settlement Means for Kyle’s Future
Kyle’s parents, who are in their 60’s, care for Kyle around the clock. They stretch his body for five hours each day and they take him on family outings like boating on Shasta Lake and cutting Christmas trees. As they grow older, though, they may not be able to provide the same level of care. The settlement ensures that Kyle will receive needed care throughout his lifetime.
Kyles parents and his personal injury attorneys are hopeful that technological and medical advances will eventually allow Kyle to communicate with others. The settlement enables Kyle to consult with world-renowned medical experts and benefit from future developments for people with locked-in syndrome.
Reiner, Slaughter, Mainzer & Frankel’s Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help You
The safety attorneys at Reiner Slaughter & Frankel have helped thousands of personal injury victims receive the care and compensation they deserve after a car, boat, motorcycle or trucking accident, or an accident on a construction site or other place of business. If you or a loved one has been hurt, contact Reiner, Slaughter, Mainzer & Frankel today for your free no-obligation consultation.