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While driving over a bridge or overpass, you’re probably not worried that it will collapse. This is for good reason — bridge collapse accidents occur infrequently. In the rare instances a bridge does collapse, however, people can be injured or killed and lasting images of mangled steel and concrete are plastered all over the news.
Much goes into building a bridge, and if the designer, contractor, or sub-contractor make even one mistake, the consequences could be deadly. Additionally, they require maintenance after completion and must be regularly inspected to ensure they remain safe. If these very necessary steps are not taken during construction and after completion, it could lead to a collapse.
At Morgan & Morgan, our personal injury attorneys have experience dealing with with a wide variety of practice areas, including bridge collapse accidents. Matt Morgan filed the first pedestrian bridge collapse negligence lawsuit after the Florida International University bridge collapse in Miami against the companies involved in the construction of the structure. Morgan is representing a survivor of the collapse who was injured when the 950-ton concrete pedestrian bridge fell.
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a bridge collapse accident, our attorneys may also be able to help you and your family hold the responsible parties accountable. You could be eligible for compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, among other damages. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to learn more.
Should You Fear Driving Over a Bridge?
As of 2016, there were 614,387 bridges in the United States, almost four in 10 of which are 50 years or older, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers bridge report. The same report determined that 56,007 of those bridges are structurally deficient and that 188 million trips are taken daily over them.
While that sounds scary, it must be noted that the term “structurally deficient” sounds more dangerous than its actual definition. The ASCE report defines structurally deficient as, “bridges that require significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. Structurally deficient bridges are not unsafe, but could become so and need to be closed without substantial improvements.”
Therefore, commuters should not fear the bridge they cross every day is in imminent danger of collapsing. Those responsible must be proactive about inspecting and repairing bridges, however, to ensure there isn’t a preventable tragedy.
Who Can be Injured in a Bridge Collapse?
When a bridge over water collapses, motorists and pedestrians are in danger of falling into the water, as in the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007. When the bridge goes over roads and highways, the motorists and pedestrians on the bridge are in danger as are those below.
That’s what happened at FIU.
Thankfully, though, the bridge was not open to the public, otherwise FIU students and other Miami residents could have been killed or injured in the collapse. Those below the structure were not as lucky. Even though it was not open to the public, the street below wasn’t closed and motorists and pedestrians were killed and injured when the pedestrian bridge collapsed.
Aside from unsuspecting motorists and pedestrians, construction workers can also be injured in a collapse, if it occurs during construction. While hard hats can lessen the trauma caused by falling debris, they are no defense against large pieces of steel and concrete.
Who Can be Held Responsible for a Bridge Collapse Accident?
Bridges are maintained by each state’s Department of Transportation, unless the it’s owned by federal agencies or private entities. Still, the responsibility for a bridge’s failure will likely fall to a number of organizations, including the designer and builder in some cases.
Parties that can be held liable include the state, the bridge designer, contractor or sub-contractor, or maintenance and inspection companies. Determining whether the bridge was originally designed and constructed properly is critical to determining which parties can be held liable.
The statute of limitations will likely protect the bridge designer and builders if the bridge collapses many years after it’s constructed. In cases like what happened at FIU in Miami, more parties may be held accountable because the bridge was recently constructed and not even open to the public at the time it fell.
If a construction worker is injured in a bridge collapse, they can file a workers’ compensation claim with their employer and collect compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, among other damages. They may also be able to file a third-party lawsuit, if a lawyer can determine that a party other than the construction worker’s employer contributed to the accident.
In the most severe accidents in which a construction workers is killed, their loved ones could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. Even though a lawsuit will not bring back a family’s loved one, it can provide them with compensation for expenses related to their loved one’s death and ease the financial strain it may create.
Are You Eligible to File a Bridge Collapse Lawsuit?
At Morgan & Morgan, our attorneys have previous experience handling bridges collapse accident cases. This experience allows us to help those who reach out to us without delay. A prime example of this was in the tragic incident in Miami at FIU, in which we were the first to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties.
Ultimately, the faster we begin the legal process, the faster you can receive the compensation you may need and certainly deserve. To learn more about how our bridge collapse lawyers may be able to help you after a bridge collapse accident, contact us today for a free, no-obligation case review.