Who is Liable for a Truck Bridge Strike Accident?

May 24, 2024


Commercial trucks that collide with bridges or overpasses in truck bridge strike incidents can seriously jeopardize the safety of oncoming traffic and cause extensive damage to vehicles and infrastructure. If you are involved in a truck accident due to a bridge strike, you may receive compensation for the damage from the crash.

However, determining who bears responsibility for a truck bridge impact accident requires carefully evaluating several elements, such as vehicle height clearance, road signage, maintenance, and negligent truck driving. You must also identify the party liable for the accident. In most cases, the truck driver, trucking company, or local agency is responsible for a truck bridge accident.

This article explores the legal consequences for all parties involved in truck bridge strike accidents. It explains the challenges of establishing liability to receive compensation for the damages in such cases.

What Are Bridge Strikes?

A collision between a vehicle, cargo, or equipment and a bridge is known as a "bridge strike." Most bridge collisions happen where roadways travel below railroad bridges.

In most cases, highways with bridges post circular traffic signs indicating the maximum height of vehicles that can pass through them. If the truck is higher than the dimensions mentioned on the sign, a bridge-strike accident will likely occur as soon as the truck tries to enter.

What Causes Bridge Strikes?

There are several reasons why a bridge strike occurs. In most cases of this type of accident, truck drivers fail to check the height of their freight, causing the truck to hit the bridge when it passes.

Other causes of bridge strikes include the following:

  • Failure to plan the route ahead of time.
  • Inability to determine the maximum height of the bridge.
  • Failure to post traffic signs indicating the allowed dimensions.

According to a study by Network Rail, 32% of drivers admitted to driving without being aware of the height of their vehicle, while 56% admitted that they failed to plan their route to take into account low bridges.

Can Drivers Avoid Bridge Strikes?

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, bridge strikes can be avoided by paying more attention to traffic signs, using electronic navigation systems designed for trucks and buses, and becoming more aware of route limits along travel routes.

Truck drivers and trucking companies must plan their driving routes, and when doing so, they should consider the heights of the bridges that are present.

The following are some route-planning tips to help avoid bridge strike accidents:

  • Determine the height of your trailer and truck when empty and loaded.
  • Develop a trip plan in advance and avoid routes with low bridges.
  • Use the Motor Carriers' Atlas that lists truck routes, restricted routes, and low-clearance bridges, when planning a trip.
  • Utilize GPS devices made specifically for commercial trucks.
  • Avoid distractions when driving, and
  • Always check the bridge-posted clearance signs when entering a bridge or tunnel.

How Dangerous is a Bridge Strike Accident?

Truck Bridge strike accidents can cause catastrophic damage to the infrastructure and accident victims. A truck colliding with the bridge can result in severe property damage, prompting heavy traffic.

Apart from this, due to the truck's large size and weight, bridge strike accidents can result in multiple crashes, affecting several road users. Accident victims may experience significant injuries, such as:

  • whiplash,
  • neck injuries,
  • spinal cord injuries,
  • broken bones,
  • brain injuries,
  • complete paralysis, and others.

Who is Liable for a Truck Bridge Strike Accident?

A bridge strike truck accident may happen for several reasons, depending on the circumstances of the crash. In most cases, either the truck driver, trucking company, or local agency can be responsible for a collision.

The truck driver or the trucking company is liable for the crash.

There are no weight and height restrictions when planning routes for standard vehicles. However, truck routing is more challenging. A proper tool is needed when planning ways for trucks and commercial vehicles to prevent accidents, such as bridge strikes.

Before going on trips, truck drivers or trucking companies usually use truck routing software to determine the following:

  • Weight, height, width, and length restrictions,
  • Low bridges,
  • Hazmat cargo,
  • Road types like paid toll roads and highways,
  • Tunnels, and others.

Some companies have specific employees that perform this responsibility, while others depend on their truck drivers when planning the trip. If they fail to fulfill this duty and result in a bridge truck accident, the truck driver or the company should be liable for the damage.

Moreover, truck drivers may also be held accountable for a crash if they stack their freight in such a way that it poses hazards when entering a bridge or tunnel. In such cases, the truck driver should cover the accident’s expenses.

The local agency is responsible for the collision.

Local agencies responsible for maintaining infrastructure are tasked with determining the specifics of their roads and highways, such as possible hazards, and providing solutions, such as reconstructions or danger signs.

On highway bridges, the local government should indicate the allowed height and weight the bridge can carry. If they fail to do so and result in a bridge strike accident, they should be held liable for the damages caused by the collision.

While you may file a claim against a local agency, you may only do so within six months from the time of the crash. This time frame depends on the jurisdiction of your state. Moreover, if you miss the deadline, your case will likely be dismissed.

This is why it is essential to reach out to a truck accident lawyer who can collect evidence and determine the negligent party responsible for your collision to be able to file a personal injury claim.

What Damages Can I Include in My Truck Accident Settlement?

Settlements for truck accidents vary based on several factors. The degree of the damages and their effect on the injured victim's life essentially determine the compensation value.

For instance, a truck accident that causes total paralysis in a victim may result in a higher settlement than a collision that only causes property damage. This is why it's crucial to consider the following losses when determining your overall compensation:

Economic damages are monetary losses calculated using invoices, receipts, and other related documentation. This can be the following:

  • past, future, and present medical costs,
  • vehicle repair or replacement bills,
  • lost wages,
  • future loss of earning capacity, and
  • out-of-pocket expenses.

On the other hand, non-economic damages are intangible losses caused by an accident with no exact monetary value. The following are examples of non-monetary losses:

  • pain and suffering,
  • loss of enjoyment,
  • anxiety,
  • emotional distress,
  • depression,
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,
  • loss of love and companionship, and others.

Finally, punitive damages are additional expenses the court imposes when it determines that the responsible party's conduct was particularly severe or purposeful.

While assessing economic damages is simple, establishing the worth of non-economic losses can be complex.

An attorney from an injury law firm has the knowledge and experience to effectively evaluate and quantify non-monetary damages, helping you receive the highest financial compensation possible.

Furthermore, these attorneys can assess your personal injury case and determine whether you are entitled to punitive damages.

How Can I Maximize My Tow Truck Accident Settlement?

Most truck accidents cause catastrophic injuries and property loss. While you can identify negligent drivers in incidents involving traffic violations, it is more challenging when determining a truck company’s or local agency's fault in bridge strike accidents.

For example, suppose you were in a bridge strike accident with multiple parties, including a commercial truck that hit a bridge. You didn't know that several drivers were liable for the accident besides the trucking company responsible for route planning. You only pursued an injury case against the truck driver in this scenario.

A truck accident attorney can assess your auto crash and identify all the possible negligent parties involved in the collision. This way, you can pursue multiple claims simultaneously to maximize your compensation.


Urban Splatter

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