Dan Sligh and his wife, Sally, were driving along the I-5 in Washington heading for a Memorial Day weekend camping trip when, all of a sudden, the roadway disappeared in front of them. The bridge across the Skagit River collapsed after an over-sized truck hit the steel tresses. Three cars, including the Sligh’s, ended up in the river 25 feet below. Fortunately — and amazingly, considering the distance and the icy waters — no one was killed, and only minor injuries were sustained by the unlucky motorists.
The collapse of the I-5 bridge brings up several questions about the safety of bridges across the nation. Another pressing question: Who was responsible for the accident in the first place?
Permit Does Not Free Trucking Company From Responsibility
Over-sized trucks can be found on many of our roadways, and they are governed by permits and safety requirements at the state level. The truck that struck the bridge was hauling drilling equipment on the southbound I-5, a route that had been approved by state officials. The company was approved for a load as high as 15 feet, 9 inches, despite the fact that the clearance of the Skagit Bridge is a foot less than that on its sides. The maximum clearance is 17 feet near the middle of the bridge, and the National Transportation Safety Board believes that if the truck had been in the left-most southbound lane, it likely would have cleared the bridge without incident. According to Sligh, who saw the incident play out in front of him, the truck was blocked into the right lane by another tractor-trailer.
The truck company had a permit. The trucker was a well-qualified driver experienced in hauling over-sized loads. But, ultimately, it is the trucking company’s responsibility to ensure the safe passage of their trucks. In fact, the permit comes with the qualification that the state “does not guarantee height clearance.” Dale Ogden, who was driving near the truck’s pilot car, told CNN he saw the pole designed to check for clearance hit the top of the bridge. Trucking companies have a responsibility to carefully plan their routes and load sizes so that trucks can navigate safely. When they fail to do so, they put other motorists at risk.
Collapse Will Cost State Millions
The I-5 bridge accident could have been far worse, and everyone is thankful its toll did not include human lives. The disaster will, however, cost the state an estimated $15 million in repairs. In addition, traffic along the busy corridor that connects Seattle and Canada will remain backed up, causing major disruption to the lives of residents and costing the trade and tourism industries.
If you were involved in a trucking accident, you may have been the victim of negligence on the part of the company or the driver. You may be eligible for compensation for the damages you suffered. The attorneys at Perey Law Group are dedicated to seeking justice for you and experienced in recognizing negligence. If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident, contact us immediately for a free, no-obligation consultation.