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California man awarded $17 million for forklift injury

A Southern California man has been awarded $17 million for a devastating accident in 2013 that led to the amputation of part of his right leg. The man was a security guard at a PennySaver facility when he was hit by a forklift.

The 62-year-old Riverside man's right leg was crushed in the incident. He endured 11 surgeries, several infections, physical therapy and months in hospitals and nursing homes. According to his brother, he was then told by a doctor that the bottom half of his leg would need to be amputated.

The insurance company for PennySaver, which most Southern Californians know for the coupon booklets that regularly arrive in the mail, argued that the man's negligence at the worksite caused the accident. An attorney for Travelers Insurance described the employee as "oblivious" to his surroundings when he entered the area where the forklift regularly operated.

Travelers argued that the forklift had a strobe light and backup alarm. Nonetheless, the security guard was struck when the forklift was backing up.

A video supported the assertion that the man was looking at the ground when he entered the area where the forklift was moving pallets outside a warehouse. The insurance company also noted that the man wasn't wearing a reflective vest.

According to the victim's attorney, who called the verdict "very fair and reasonable," while jurors in the case agreed that his client had been negligent, they determined that his negligence wasn't a significant factor in the injury he suffered. His attorney says that Travelers has agreed not to appeal the verdict and to pay the judgment in full.

The victim's brother says that before the accident, his sibling was "extremely independent"….He wasn't sedentary." He says that he has a temporary prosthetic leg, but will be getting a permanent one. He is reportedly suffering from complications resulting from a skin graft.

The judgment, according to the man's attorney, will be used to pay his medical bills and "to provide for his needs for the rest of his life. He added, "The hope is that it will make life somewhat better for him, although he will always have challenges."

It's not uncommon for employers who are held liable for workers' injuries to claim that the victims were negligent. However, experienced workers' compensation attorneys can work to show judges and juries that lack of appropriate safety precautions were ultimately to blame.

Source: The Press-Enterprise, "Jury awards $17 million to Riverside man who lost leg to forklift at PennySaver facility," Ali Tadayon, July 12, 2017

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