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Question: Can The Victims of the I-5 Bridge Collapse Sue the Washington State Department of Transportation? Answer: Yes, quiet possibly.

Updated on: 11/13/2019

Possible Lawsuit Against WSDOT For The I-5 Bridge Collapse Accident

lawsuit against DOT for bridge accidentSince last night’s collapse of the I-5 bridge that crosses the Skagit River near Mount Vernon, our office has received a number of calls from reporters and other members of the news media asking if the victims of the bridge accident have any grounds for legal action against the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)

Although it does appear that the collapse was triggered by a semi-truck carrying an oversized load striking the bridge, WSDOT may also be at fault for failing to properly maintain the bridge. 

The Federal Highway Administration had declared the bridge as “structurally deficient” and which indicates that parts of the bridge were in need of monitoring and/or repair.  In addition, the bridge was also categorized as “functionally obsolete” which means that the design is outdated-- such as having narrow shoulders or low clearance underneath.  Despite the ‘structurally deficient’ and “functionally obsolete” ratings, the federal agency says that the bridge was not declared ‘unsafe’ and that most deficient bridges across the US remain open to traffic.   

Washington State was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers' 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state's bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington's 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient of functionally obsolete.

But the number of bridges the state's transportation department considers structurally deficient has grown nearly 50% in the past six years, according to a 2012 government report.  Which begs the question, is Washington State doing enough to maintain the state’s bridges and keep them safe for public use?  And if the brige were safe and structurally sound would it have been able to withstand the impact of the oversized-load?

Tough Questions the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will have to answer if victim’s choose to pursue a legal claim or lawsuit.

  • Why was the Skagit Bridge not strong enough to absorb the impact?
  • Why did the state allow a seemingly insufficient bridge to exist on such a busy stretch of Interstate 5?
  • What repairs or improvements had been made to the bridge in the last several years?
  • What were the state’s plans to repair or replace the bridge?
  • Were proper signs posted near the bridge to alert commercial trucks as to the size and weight restrictions of the bridge?
  • How often was the state inspecting and/or monitoring the bridge’s safety?
  • Why was the clearance height of the bridge 18 inches below industry standard?
  • Why was the trucking company issued a permit by the state allowing them to take the truck on bridge?

Victims of the I-5 bridge collapse would be well advised to seek legal assistance as quickly so their attorney could hire a bridge construction/safety expert as soon as possible.  Evidence will begin to erode or disappear in the days and weeks following the accident.  It is important to preserve evidence that may be vital to the victim’s case. 

Bridge Accident Attorneys

Top-rated Seattle injury attorney Chris Davis and the team at Davis Law Group have experience handling lawsuits against the State of Washington, against trucking companies (including Canadian trucking companies) and motor vehicle accidents.  If you or someone you know has been injured in any type of accident contact Davis Law Group for a free consultation at 206-727-4000. 

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