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Who is responsible when a bridge collapses?

Bridge collapses can occur for any number of reasons. One thing that's certain is that they can cause multiple serious injuries and fatalities. One collapse that many of our readers may recall occurred close to the northern tip of the Mississippi River in Minnesota almost exactly a dozen years ago.

The I-35 bridge collapsed and fell almost 1,900 feet into the river below. Thirteen people died and almost 150 more were injured. Sadly, this collapse should have been anticipated. Two years earlier, the U.S. Department of Transportation gave the bridge a rating of just 50 out of 100 and determined that it was structurally deficient.

Even when a bridge collapse doesn't cause this level of human carnage, it can be extremely expensive. Repairs can cost millions of dollars. It can cost millions more to divert traffic while repairs are being made.

Determining who can and should be held liable when a bridge collapses can be a complicated matter. Possible defendants in a legal claim may include the company that originally designed it and the contractor that built it.

If a bridge has been around for a while, the companies and government entities responsible for the bridge's ongoing maintenance may have some liability. So may the state and/or federal agencies in charge of inspecting the bridge. If maintenance or construction is being done on a bridge when it collapses, the company responsible for that may have some liability.

In the I-35 bridge collapse, litigation continued for years. In the end, multiple companies contributed to the settlement. The state also passed a law that provided $36 million in compensation to the victims.

Victims of bridge collapses and other accidents that may have been caused by faulty construction, poor maintenance and/or lack of proper inspection and follow-up should consult with an experienced attorney to determine what their best course of action is to seek justice and compensation.

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