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Is anyone responsible for a bridge collapse?

By John Singleton on September 2, 2017

Many of you aren’t old enough to remember the collapse of the Silver Bridge in December of 1967.

The Silver Bridge was an eyebar-chain suspension bridge that spanned the Ohio River and connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia, with Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have heard of the event, it may be because local lore linked the tragedy to sightings of the “Mothman.” Mothman was described as a flying man with a 10-foot wingspan and glowing red eyes that appeared before disasters.

Whether you believe in the creature or not, the collapse of the Silver Bridge was a real disaster. It took 46 lives, and the tragedy still haunts the memories of residents in the area.

How old does a bridge have to be?

The Silver Bridge opened in 1928 and was only in operation for 39 years before the tragedy happened in 1967. Bridges built since then are designed with greatly advanced technology, but there still is the danger of collapse. The 2007 collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis is just one more recent example. It opened in 1967 and crumbled into the Mississippi River 50 years later, killing 13. These unfortunate events beg the question: who is responsible for taking care of the people who are injured or killed?

Who can be held liable for a bridge collapse and its aftermath?

And no, the Mothman cannot be held liable in a court of law. (First, you’d have to prove he exists.)

Many parties, however, can be held liable for a bridge collapse, including the company that designed the bridge, the company or companies that constructed the bridge, the companies that furnished the materials the bridge was made of, the party charged with inspecting and maintaining the bridge, and any company that was working on the bridge at the time of the collapse. And it doesn’t stop there—there are cases of a barge, tugboat, or freighter colliding with a bridge pylon and causing a collapse. This happened to Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 1980, resulting in the loss of 35 lives.

Who can be held liable for a bridge collapse ultimately comes down to what actually caused the collapse. Was it a design flaw, inferior materials, a negligent barge pilot? Whoever caused or contributed to the collapse can be named as a defendant in a civil suit.

Do I need to worry about a bridge collapse?

Your chances of being on a bridge when it collapses are slim. That being said, the Federal Highway Commission estimates that 11 percent of our country’s 607,000 bridges are “structurally deficient.” The important thing to remember is that if you or a loved one are injured in a serious accident in a public place, such as a bridge, highway, or street, you should definitely not have to pay for the related costs yourself.

To find out more about your legal rights and potential payouts, call GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys at (804) 413-6777. It’s free to speak to us, and if you become our client, it’s still free—you will pay no upfront costs. We’ll work towards making you whole, even in the event of a (very surprising) Virginia bridge collapse.

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