Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on the status of bridges across the nation. According to the report, as many as 10 percent of the country’s 611,000 bridges are structurally deficient. Whether due to poor maintenance or a flawed design, these bridges pose a serious risk to thousands of drivers as injuries sustained in bridge collapses are often serious and in some tragic cases, deadly. Cities and states have a responsibility to ensure that the nation’s roads and bridges are safe for use. Unfortunately, due to negligence, a lack of oversight, or insufficient funding, construction and maintenance crews often do not uphold these responsibilities, which can have devastating consequences. When a bridge collapses, the parties responsible for its poor design can and should be held responsible, so if you are a Georgia resident and were injured in a bridge collapse or in an accident caused by a defective road, it is critical to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you seek compensation for your losses.
Bridge Collapse Causes
Although undetected deterioration resulting from a failure to complete regular inspections is the most common cause of bridge collapses, bridge accidents can also be the result of any of the following causes:
- Construction accidents;
- Train crashes;
- Boat collisions;
- Electrical hazards;
- Design defects; and
- Manufacturing defects resulting from the use of improper or defective materials.
Some bridge collapses are the result of one significant event, such as a major earthquake. However, most are caused by a combination of multiple problems. For instance, a natural disaster may cause a train crash that contributes to or causes the bridge collapse, which was also structurally deficient and improperly inspected. While this can make it difficult to attribute fault to a specific party, it is still possible to hold the responsible entities accountable.
Although natural disasters and poor design can contribute to a bridge collapse, in most cases, bridge accidents are the result of negligent maintenance. Regular upkeep and inspections are absolutely necessary to ensuring that a bridge is safe and complies with federal and state standards. Because they are exposed to the elements and constant traffic, bridges need to be constantly maintained. However, negligence, budgetary constraints, and a lack of manpower often lead to bridges going unrepaired for years or even decades, which can lead to devastating accidents down the road.
Because bridges are so massive, injuries suffered when these types of structures collapse can be especially severe. Tragically, these kinds of accidents often result in fatalities, but victims may suffer from other catastrophic injuries, such as:
- Crushed or broken bones;
- Spinal cord injury; and
- Traumatic brain injury.
These types of catastrophic injuries can be extremely expensive to treat. For instance, victims may need to foot the bill for emergency treatment, ambulance services, reconstructive surgeries, prescription medications, hospital stays, doctor’s visits, and physical therapy. On top of these costs, injured parties may also need to take weeks or months off from work and in some cases, may never be able to work in the same field again. Fortunately, bridge collapse victims can collect compensation for these losses as well as vehicle repair or replacement and for the pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident.
In 1968, Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which required the Secretary of Transportation to establish specific standards for bridge inspections. To satisfy the terms of this law, states must conduct regular inspections and submit reports detailing their findings to the National Bridge Inventory of the Federal Highway Administration. For instance, the law requires that bridges with steel beams that are crucial to stability be inspected at least every two years. Unfortunately, these inspections are often not conducted or are negligently performed, which can have life threatening consequences for the unlucky drivers or pedestrians who happen to be on the bridge when it collapses.
A failure to adhere to state and federal regulations constitutes gross negligence, which means that the at-fault party can be required to compensate victims for their injuries. At-fault parties could include some or all of the following individuals:
- Equipment manufacturers;
- Materials suppliers; and
In most cases, these individuals are employed by the government. When a government’s negligence contributes to or causes an accident, victims may be able to collect compensation through a settlement process, which can be far less traumatizing and time-consuming than going to court.
State and federal governments are also responsible for building and maintaining roads. A failure to use the appropriate materials or to fix even minor problems, such as potholes can lead to much larger and more dangerous issues in the future. For instance, when not repaired, potholes can grow larger over time, while also weakening the surrounding areas. Uneven pavement from subtle sinking can similarly create serious hazards for vehicles that are not prepared for or equipped to handle a change in grade. Improperly constructed roads can also lead to drainage problems, which poses additional risks to drivers. Fortunately, parties injured in a crash caused by a defective road can also collect compensation from local or federal governments.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney in Augusta, GA
Bridge collapses can be terrifying events, in which hundreds of cars are involved and victims are trapped in their vehicles, crushed by other cars, or submerged in water. Resulting injuries can range in severity from broken bones to severed spinal cords and permanent brain damage, so collecting compensation from the responsible parties is absolutely imperative. If you were recently involved in a bridge collapse and suffered either property damage or physical injury, please contact Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. by sending us a brief message containing your name, email address, phone number, and a brief description of your case. We’ll have a member of our dedicated & experienced personal injury legal team in Augusta contact you as soon as possible to set up an initial consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case.