A pedestrian bridge collapsed over DC-295 on June 23, 2021, injuring five people. It shut down traffic for about 13 hours. It damaged a number of vehicles. About 25 gallons of fuel leaked onto the road and into storm drains.
That’s a lot of numbers to take in, but every single one of them is important. People were hurt, and given the total collapse of the bridge, it is extraordinary that no one was killed. It is also, sadly, not surprising. NBC Washington reports that in February 2020, inspectors gave the bridge a “4,” or “poor,” rating – “the threshold that prompts the multiyear planning process to replace the bridge,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Chris Geldart.
What caused the pedestrian bridge to collapse?
At this time, it appears the collapse was the result with a truck collision, though city leadership believes that the truck should have been able to pass under that bridge without a problem. An investigation is underway, but if the truck was overloaded, or its cargo was stacked too high, it could have hit the bridge, triggering a collapse. It is also possible that the truck hit the supports directly, which could have led to its collapse.
Whether the truck driver did anything wrong or not, weak structural integrity is most likely the key player here. To ensure everyone’s safety, however, inspectors are now looking at other bridges the truck may have passed under, as well as the stairs that were connected to the bridge.
Unsafe bridges are nothing new
Washington, DC may be the latest city to experience a bridge collapse, but it is by no means the only one. The Dale Bend Bridge in Arkansas collapsed in 2019 after an 18-wheeler attempted to cross it. In 2018, the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapsed on to a busy road, killing six people and injuring 10 others. The May Ave. overpass in Oklahoma City collapsed in 2016 after a truck hit it, though luckily no one was injured. These are but a few examples of collapses caused by negligence over the past five years, and they do not begin to account for the number of aging and dangerous bridges in DC and throughout the country that are in desperate need of repair or replacement. WTOP reports there are six other bridges in the Capital that have a rating of 4, so it is only a matter of time before they collapse, too.
This is why Congress must pass an infrastructure bill. Washington, DC – much like its neighbors, Maryland and West Virginia – needs infrastructure upgrades, and those upgrades cost money. The city was “lucky” this time that only five people were hurt, and that none of those injuries were life-threatening. We must fix what is wrong before the next six bridges collapse, too.
Who is liable if you are hurt in a bridge collapse?
If you are injured in a bridge collapse, there could be multiple liable parties, including the city as well as the driver who hit the bridge. If the collapse is the result of poor design and/or construction – as it was with the Florida International University pedestrian bridge – the construction company may also be held liable.
Depending on the injuries you sustain, you could be entitled to damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property loss
- Pain and suffering
If your loved one dies in a bridge collapse, you can claim damages for burial and funeral expenses.