New Developments Reveal Complexity of Liability in FIU Bridge Collapse
Nearly six months out, there has been very little information regarding the collapse of the pedestrian bridge over U.S. 41 near the campus of Florida International University. In fact, it appears that both governmental authorities and private entities have been engaged in a collective effort to ensure that no news about the collapse is released to the general public – seemingly in violation of Florida’s FOIA Laws. Being injured as a result of an accident like a bridge collapse can be traumatic, both physically and mentally, and retaining the services of an attorney experienced in construction accidents, premises liability, and wrongful death, including those involving public works projects, can help to ensure proper compensation for damages suffered. As the various legal disputes come to the surface regarding the bridge collapse, various developments have come to light regarding what exactly happened that fateful day. A general discussion of liability for a construction accident related to a public work project, and some of the issues that have arisen in the FIU bridge collapse, will follow below.
Public Works Liability
While, typically, an accident at a construction site would most likely mean that any individual or entity that was responsible for the cause of the damages to a victim is liable, pursuant to Florida law, this is not always the case when the construction project involves a public work. Rather, the law states that the construction company and designer can avoid liability for personal injury, property damage, or death if they can show they were in compliance with the terms of the construction contract, except when the injury is a result of a latent condition, defect, error, or omission of the contractor. Basically, the contractor must have neglected a key issue of the project. Further, even in cases of gross negligence, if a contractor has designed its plans in accordance with commonly-accepted industry practices, the contractor cannot be held liable. These restrictive legal standards highlight why a construction accident attorney is so crucial to recovering just compensations in cases of injury.
Unique Issues in the FIU Bridge Collapse
Turning to the FIU bridge collapse specifically, various unique issues have arisen from information that has come to light about the collapse, which greatly complicates determining who is at fault:
- The NTSB Statement. As with all accidents involving transportation, the NTSB issues a report of its investigation. In this particular case, however, there are some discrepancies between the report and video of the collapse.
- Evidence Spoliation. An investigation is underway regarding the apparent destruction of some material which was removed from the accident scene by a defendant.
- Video Time Gap. Although FIU had multiple cameras focused on the construction site, in an effort to capture time lapse video of the construction, there is a four-hour gap of coverage before the collapse.
- Refusal to Release Conversation Records. On the morning of the collapse, various representatives met to discuss potential flaws in the bridge, but no party is, as of yet, willing to release records of these discussions.
- New Plans. As a result of an inspection before the collapse, a set of plans were developed, which included handwritten notes. It is currently unknown what the substance of the new plans, as well as the notes, is.
- Pre-Emptive Lawsuits. Some of the defendants in the lawsuits filed so far are also being sued by their insurance companies, ostensibly for a pre-emptive ruling that the liability policies do not cover any damages due to the bridge collapse.
These facts are seemingly unique, but must still be addressed in any personal injury litigation. An experienced attorney can sort through all these issues and determine whether cause exists for filing a lawsuit.
Seek Legal Advice
If you or a loved one suffered an injury as the result of an accident, contact the attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. While there may be limits on you, or your loved one’s, recovery of costs, the attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado have the experience necessary to review the facts and develop the best strategy to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.