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Baltimore Bridge Collapse Should Not Be Borne by Tax Payers

The cargo ship, The Dali, lost power and hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland. The ship was moving at 8 knots, roughly 9 mph, and carrying a full cargo load. Thirty seconds later, the bridge immediately bulked and collapsed. The crash occurred around 4am, long before the morning commute traffic. Authorities were able to stop cars from coming over the bridge. The Francis Scott Key Bridge was opened in 1977 and stretches across the Patapsco River at the entrance to the harbor, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. 

Two people were pulled out of the water, one of whom was treated at a hospital and discharged hours later. At least six people from a construction crew are missing and presumed dead. Multiple vehicles also went into the river, although they appeared to be unoccupied at the time. All twenty-three crew members and the two pilots of the ship were uninjured. The ship was going to undergo the maintenance, though no issue with the engine was reported prior to the collision.  

The Dali is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd, a Singaporean company. The ship’s owner could face millions of dollars in claims from the bridge collapse. Clean up is expected to take months since the channel is 50 feet (15 meters) deep. The ship was also transporting potentially hazardous materials, which will require additional work to clear. 

President Biden said he intends for the federal government to pay the cost of rebuilding, though such a promise is contingent on Congress acting. President Biden stated he would not wait to determine liability before acting and the government would likely try to recoup costs if the ship is determined to be at fault. 

Baltimore BridgeLimitation of Liability  

Grace Ocean may file a “limitation of liability” action. This would potentially limit the ship owner’s liability to just the value of the ship and its pending cargo. If a limitation of liability is filed, it would act like an automatic stay in a bankruptcy filing and stop all pending litigation against the ship owners. The case would then be adjudicated in federal court under maritime law. Any plaintiffs that wish to recover more than the value of the ship and its cargo must prove that the owners had knowledge of the cause of the accident. However, it would take several years of investigation to determine why The Dali lost power and if the Grace Ocean knew about it.  

If the limitation is broken though, the damages would surely be at least in the millions if not greater. In addition to the destruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, at least six construction workers lost their lives and two more may have been severally injured. Several vehicles were also lost and commence in the Northeast will be severally impacted by the loss of the bridge until it can be replaced. Even if the limitation is removed though, either the Grace Ocean would have to come up with the funds or have sufficient insurance to cover the damages. Either seems unlikely given the extent of the losses and the economic repercussions on the region.   

It is unlikely that the construction company that employed the workers would face any liability. A ship smashing into the bridge is highly unforeseeable and next to impossible to predict. The construction company reports that it had cones, signs, lights, barriers, and flaggers out while their employees were working. Of course, such precautions are for potential oncoming vehicles and would do nothing to deter a cargo ship. However, it would not be the construction company’s responsibility to divert any ships.   

Do I Need the Help of a Personal Injury Attorney? 

If you have sustained a personal injury through the unlawful act of another, then you should contact a personal injury attorney. A skilled personal injury lawyer near you can review the facts of your case, go over your rights and options, and represent you at hearings and in court. 


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