The Miami Bridge Collapse Deaths Might Have Been Avoidable
Earlier this March near Miami, a pedestrian bridge over US-41 collapsed onto the road below and killed six people. And while that’s the main issue, the bridge also destroyed several cars, ruined the road beneath it, and blocked traffic for days as rescue workers cleared 950 tons of wreckage and recovered the remaining bodies.
The pedestrian bridge was a recent addition to the highway, a way for people to walk between Florida International University and nearby Sweetwater without crossing the busy highway directly. The main span had only gone up five days before the accident, which means the accident wasn’t a matter of ordinary wear and tear. Something was seriously wrong with the bridge’s construction, and it’s very likely we’ll see six wrongful death lawsuits (or one class-action suit) pop up in the near future.
The Warning Signs
It’s too early yet to know exactly what happened, when, and why, but what we know at this point is already troubling. Two days before the collapse, an engineer working on the bridge noticed a crack and sent a message to a Florida Department of Transportation official, but the engineer thought the crack wasn’t serious. On the morning of the collapse, project engineers held a two-hour discussion about the crack with both FIU and FDOT representatives present, but at the end of it they concluded it wouldn’t be a serious problem.
Now to be fair, bridges often have cracks that don’t seriously damage their structure, and there’s always some settling just after bridge workers put a main span in place. However, the fact remains that these were clear warning signs and neither the government agency nor the university responsible for building the bridge chose to do anything about it. They could have blocked the road and given the bridge a more thorough inspection or stress test, but they chose not to err on the side of caution.
Another important point is that the construction company was using a new method at the time, an innovative way of assembling the bridge quickly and with as little traffic disruption as possible. However, the problem is that no one is familiar with new methods, and so according to one early theory the construction firm was in the middle of adjusting the bridge tension levels when they made a mistake, and since they didn’t stop traffic before adjusting the bridge the mistake became fatal.
Civil lawsuits are already being filed against the construction and engineering companies employed by the university to build the bridge. The person in question was on his bicycle at the time of the collapse, and he got clipped by a panicking driver and trapped under some rubble. The suit is for a relatively modest $15,000, but the final tally could be a lot higher thanks to the wrongful death suits. It might go even higher since investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have confirmed the construction company was working on the bridge without clearing the road.
Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits work on a simple principle: if something bad happens and someone could have stopped that bad thing from happening, they’re responsible and should compensate the person injured. In this case, at least allegedly, the company building the bridge chose to adjust its design while letting traffic pass underneath. If they had stopped traffic, the accident would have been in the local paper and maybe a TV segment, but they didn’t and now it’s national news.
If you’ve been in an accident of your own over in southwest Florida, then you’ve come to the right place. The law firm of Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh has offices all throughout the region, and so if you need fair compensation or you’re up against a reluctant insurance company, we can help you out.