Structural Design Flaws Can Be Deadly
When a building or other structure collapses, the initial concern is to account for all individuals known to be in or around the structure at the time of the collapse, and then to search for any unaccounted-for survivors. Once the health of each individual has been addressed, questions turn to whether the collapse was preventable and, if so, can someone or some entity be held responsible. Retaining the services of an attorney experienced in personal injury matters can be key to ensuring that an injured individual is able to receive compensation for his/her injuries. Recently, after a months-long review, federal investigators determined that design flaws were the primary cause of the March collapse of the bridge at Florida International University which caused the deaths of six individuals. Following the study, it was determined that the design of the bridge underestimated the structural load on the north end, while, at the same time, overestimating the strength of a key structural component. Support for this determination was found in documented instances of cracking in the bridge the weeks before the collapse. A discussion of Florida construction design defects, generally, as well as some issues to know about in these cases, will follow below.
Design Defects in Florida
In Florida, injuries resulting from defects in the design of a structure are governed by Section 558 of Florida law, which uses the legal theory of product liability to assign responsibility. Generally, product liability law, in a construction context, refers to situations where a structure causes harm to an individual. These cases typically take one of three forms, depending on the cause of the injury: Design Defects, Manufacturing Defects, and Marketing Defects.
Focusing on design defects, Florida operates according to a strict liability system, which means that a responsible party, in this case the designer, can be held liable for damages caused by the defect regardless of whether the responsible party either intentionally caused the damages or was negligent in its actions. Nevertheless, the following specific elements must be shown to be successful:
- The structure was designed in such a manner that it caused an unreasonably dangerous situation to exist;
- The structure was, in fact, built according to this design; and
- As a result of the design, the integrity of the structure failed.
In these cases, it is the injured plaintiff who bears the burden of proving that the structure had a design defect. Typically, the design itself can be used, as well as reference to marketing standards, to show that the product was defective. In the case of this bridge, obviously, using the report cited above is crucial. Due to Florida’s strict liability system, though, it is not necessary to prove how or why the defect occurred, just that it did occur.
A successful plaintiff is able to recover compensation for the following damages:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity; and
- Pain and suffering.
It is also important to note the deadlines restricting how long these cases may be filed. In Florida, a lawsuit for construction defects must be brought to court within four years from the end of the project, or, for latent defects, from the date the defect was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered with due diligence. However, in no instances can an action be brought greater than ten years from the date of possession of the structure by the owner, the issuance of certificate of occupancy, the date of abandonment of work, or the date of completion or termination of the last construction contract.
Contact Us Today for Assistance
If you were injured in a construction accident, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Pita Weber & Del Prado as soon as possible. We have experience in construction accidents, including knowing how to assert the existence of a design flaw. We will analyze your situation to ascertain the best possible strategy to obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact our Miami office today for an initial consultation.