February 1, 2022

Bridge Collapse

Frick Park - Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse

Bridge collapse in the “City of Bridges”

PITTSBURGH, PA, January 28, 2022 — During the morning rush hour on January 28, 2022, ten people suffered injuries and four people were taken to the hospital after a bridge collapsed along Forbes Avenue near Frick Park in Pittsburgh. The collapse happened hours before President Joe Biden was scheduled to travel to the city to promote his legislative agenda, including the landmark infrastructure law he signed last year.1 Several cars as well as a Port Authority bus were involved in the collapse.

Known as the “City of Bridges,” Pittsburgh boasts 446 bridges – more than any other city in the world, including Venice, Italy. The large number of bridges in Pittsburgh can be attributed to the City’s terrain that is made up of hills, valleys, and river plains. Each day, countless Pittsburghers rely on these bridges to commute to school and work without ever worrying that one might collapse. However, with a growing number of bridges in the U.S. classified as “structurally deficient” by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)2 and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)3, the number of collapses will likely rise in the future.

Number of structurally deficient bridges by state
Source American Road & Transportation Builders Association

What causes a bridge to collapse?

Bridge collapses can result from several factors – obsolete design, overuse, wear, floods, and weather. Not only are bridges in the U.S. getting older (4 out of 10 are at least 50 years old ), some were never designed to accommodate the high number of vehicles that cross them.

Out of all U.S. States, Pennsylvania has the second most structurally deficient bridges at 3,353. This is 14.6% of its total bridges. 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,” so travelers should not fear that the bridge they cross each day is in imminent danger of collapsing. However, responsible parties must proactively inspect and repair structurally deficient bridges to prevent collapses.

Who is responsible for a bridge collapse incident?

Determining who is responsible for a bridge’s collapse can be extremely complicated. The responsibility for a bridge’s failure can reasonably fall on multiple potential targets: engineers who designed the bridge, construction firms and subcontractors that built the bridge, governmental officials who allowed the bridge to open, inspection companies, maintenance companies, etc.

Determining whether a bridge was initially designed and constructed properly is crucial to assessing liability. Further, if a bridge collapses many years after its construction, its designers and builders may be protected from the statute of limitations.

If a construction worker is injured in a bridge collapse during construction (similar to what happened in the March 15, 2018 Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse5), they can file a worker’s compensation claim with their employer for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, and other damages. If there are any other responsible parties, an injured worker may be able to file a third-party claim against them as well.

According to the Penndot – Bridges Interactive Statewide Map, this bridge’s deck and superstructure conditions were rated “poor”, while the substructure condition was rated “satisfactory”. Penndot is responsible for the inspection of approximately 6,600 locally owned bridges.

PennDOT Bridge Conditions

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If someone is tragically killed in a bridge collapse incident, their loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties in order to receive compensation for their loss – including lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.

We hope that you and your family were not injured during the bridge collapse on the morning of January 28th, but if you were, you'll probably be looking for someone to trust. At Edgar Snyder & Associates, you can trust our experience, our track record, and our promise to our clients. Find Experience, Find Edgar.

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