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Workers' compensation: Paralyzed worker wins third-party claim

The state-regulated insurance program typically covers workers in California. Employers must carry workers' compensation insurance, which pays benefits that include medical expenses and lost wages. Workers who suffer permanent disabilities in work-related accidents might be awarded additional benefits. It is a no-fault program that pays benefits regardless of who was at fault, and workers may only sue employers if there is proof of gross negligence. However, if an independent third party causes injuries to workers, those employees might have grounds to seek damage recovery through the civil justice system.

Eight years ago, a construction worker was left paralyzed after being struck by a car that traveled through the work zone. Now, Caltrans has announced it approved a payment of $37 million in settlement of the personal injury lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the worker. Reportedly, the jury in the case determined that the driver who struck the 20-year-old worker was not at fault. Instead, the jury found that Caltrans was the negligent party.

It was revealed that Caltrans had approved the closure of a lane for worker safety, but a site engineer took it upon himself to reopen it. A contractor who attempted to block the lane by parking a backhoe across it was ordered to remove the machine, and the Caltrans engineer ordered it replaced by a traffic light. However, the light reportedly blinded motorists, and this led to the worker being struck. He was left totally paralyzed and unable to communicate.

Although victims of such accidents can pursue compensation through the California workers' compensation, this victim needs around-the-clock care for the rest of his life. That was the reason for his parents filing the third-party civil lawsuit. The settlement will allow them to obtain full-time care for their son. Any worker whose on-the-job injuries were caused by an independent third party can get valuable advice and guidance from an attorney. Legal counsel who is experienced in both workers' compensation and personal injury can assist with the pursuit to recover damages.

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