Around 8:00 a.m. on Friday, July 1, 2016, a box truck hit the elevated arm of a man lift stationed under the West Seattle Bridge, knocking two workers out of the lift. The workers were involved in the Fauntleroy Expressway Bearing Pad Replacement Project. One of the workers fell approximately fifteen feet to a ramp below and suffered serious injuries; the other worker fell all the way to the ground where the lift was parked under the bridge (about 50 feet) and died today at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The box truck was proceeding on an off ramp at the time of the crash. We extend our deepest condolences to the injured worker, and the families of both victims.
Incidents like this have broad legal implications with respect to claims available to the surviving worker and the deceased victim’s family. Workers injured on the job cannot sue their employer directly for damages related to their injuries pursuant to Washington’s workers compensation scheme. However, when an accident is caused by the negligence of a third party (someone other than the victim’s employer), those injured, or the survivors of those killed often have claims against the negligent party.
For example, in this situation, the victims and their families likely would be entitled to bring claims against the driver of the box truck that hit the man lift. In addition, since box trucks are often owned by businesses and used for business purposes, there are also potential claims against the business that owned the truck. Furthermore, many construction projects involve work by various contractors. Although claims do not lie against the workers’ own employer, there may be claims against other contractors involved in the project (i.e. was another company responsible for limiting access to the roadway during the work, but failed to do so?).