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Worker on Capitol Hill Killed by Tree Branch

According to a recent news article from CBS News, a worker was killed on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. died in what investigators are calling a freak accident.  The worker was a pipefitter employed in the Maintenance Division of the Capitol Grounds.  He had been working in this capacity for many years.

TreeAuthorities say the fatal workplace accident occurred a few minutes after 9 a.m. when a massive branch fell off an American oak tree.  Victim was working on some irrigation pipes near the tree when the branch snapped off and landed on him.  As there is no shortage of police on the Capitol grounds, it did not take long for first responders to arrive. Once they arrived, they were able to lift the tree branch off victim and rush him to a local level-one trauma center.  Unfortunately, his injuries proved too severe, and he was soon pronounced dead at the hospital.  Following the work-related death, House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed his condolences to the family and discussed how tragic the untimely death of this worker was.

When we are dealing with a personal injury lawsuit such as car crash, we often use the term “accident.”  However, in the legal sense a car accident is generally not an accident.  Instead, it is an act of negligence that resulted in serious injury or death.  Had that negligent act not occurred, there would be no victim.  In other words, the accident is not really an accident, as it is someone’s fault.  This is how a negligence lawsuit works.

On the other hand, if someone purposely punches another person in the face, this is an example of an intentional tort (civil wrong). In this case, you could file a lawsuit under a theory of assault and battery, which is an intentional tort.  If something is truly an accident and was not someone’s fault, then there would not be a case.

However in workers’ compensation cases, as our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, it is not necessary to prove any fault on behalf of the employer.  This is because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. It is necessary to establish that the employee was actually an employee, as opposed to an independent contractor, and that he or she was injured while on the job.  Technically, he or she doesn’t have to be injured on the job to collect workers’ compensation in the physical sense, but that he or she was acting in furtherance of his or her employer’s interest. For example, if you are on the clock and your boss tells you to go to a store to pick up copy paper, you are still on the job for the purpose of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured.

This means that if you are working and a tree falls on you and you are injured, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. It doesn’t matter that your employer had nothing to do with the tree branch falling. If a worker was killed by that tree branch, his or her family could file a workers’ compensation death benefits claim.

If you are the victim of Massachusetts product liability, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
Capitol Hill worker killed by falling tree branch, April 18, 2017, CBS News

More Blog Entries:
OSHA Cites Gutter Firm After Worker Injured in Fall, Feb. 15, 2017, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog