She was 15 when a DuPont wreck left her quadriplegic. State will pay her $28 million

Skylar Seward, right, holding her younger brother.
Skylar Seward, right, holding her younger brother.

A woman left quadriplegic at age 15 by a wreck on Interstate 5 in DuPont has agreed to settle her lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation for $28 million, her attorneys said Monday.

Skylar Seward was a passenger in a southbound car that hit a pillar of the Center Drive overpass on Oct. 12, 2013.

The 20-year-old’s lawsuit said a guardrail or barrier should have been in place to stop the car from hitting the pillar, but instead there was an earth berm, which did not.

When the driver of the Volkswagen Jetta overcorrected into the freeway median, the car slid along the mound of dirt and hit the pillar, causing Seward serious spinal injuries.

Earth berms have been proven ineffective, and the state Legislature came up with funding in 2006 for a six-year plan to replace them with concrete barriers, steel guard rails and steel cable rails, Seward’s attorneys said.

“They (Transportation Department officials) were given direction and funds to fix this problem and cannot explain why they failed to do so, or where the funds even went,” Keith Kessler, one of Seward’s attorneys, said in a statement. “As a result, a remarkable 15-year-old teenager’s life has been turned upside down.”

Of the 198 earth berms in the state that were to be replaced, 32 had not been as of earlier this year, Kessler said.

The Transportation Department said Monday that 201 earth berms needed to be fixed. Of those, 26 are left and will be fixed between 2019 and 2021.

The agency declined to comment further about the settlement.

Seward was studying at Timberline High School in Lacey at the time of the wreck, and is now going back to get her diploma, her attorneys said.

She hopes to study English literature in college and become a writer.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell