Maryland Bridge Collapse

(AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Police had just ninety seconds to get people off the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, before it crashed into the water. Six men lost their lives, and the collapse will impact most of the entire Eastern seaboard for years to come.

Will anyone face consequences for what happened? And, what potential lawsuits could arise from the collapse of the Baltimore bridge?

What Happened to the Bridge?

March 26, 2024, started as a typical day in the Baltimore sea harbor. A 948-foot vessel departed the dock around 12:39 a.m. But by 1:24 a.m., something was wrong. Alarms started going off. Minutes later, the pilot of the ship called in a distress call. He called to drop the anchor, but it was too late.

At 1:29 a.m., the ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The vessel was only going eight mph, but it hit a support column and sent the entire bridge crashing into the Patapsco River.

With the distress call, police had 90 seconds to get people off the bridge. While they were able to stop traffic from crossing the bridge, they were unable to get eight construction workers off in time. The eight men fell into the water with the bridge. Two men were rescued, and six others perished in the collapse.

The collapse caused a tragic loss of life, and also left a lasting impact for communities up and down the East Coast.

There are economic impacts. Between $100 million and $200 million in cargo moves in and out of the port in Baltimore each day, and roughly 8,000 jobs are tied to the port. There are environmental impacts. The ship contained close to 764 tons of corrosive, flammable material and batteries, some of which were breached, per CBS News. And there are also significant impacts to the city. The bridge collapse turned a ten-minute drive into a 45-minute drive, and it could cost $400 million to rebuild the bridge.

So, who will be held accountable?

The bridge collapse could result in many lawsuits, and already, cases are starting to take shape.

Federal Investigations

The FBI currently has agents in Baltimore, per CBS News. The federal agents, along with the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, have been conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity both on and off the ship.

“The public should know, whether it’s gun violence, civil rights abuse, financial fraud, or any other threat to public safety or property, we will seek accountability for anyone who may be responsible,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron.

The FBI investigation is in addition to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation that has also been ongoing.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Civil and Criminal Case? 

Legal Action from the City of Baltimore

Along with federal authorities, the city of Baltimore is also looking into filing potential lawsuits against those responsible for the accident.

Baltimore’s mayor, Brandon Scott, recently announced that the city has partnered with two high-profile trial law firms to take legal action. They are looking into potentially filing charges against the ship’s owner, charterer, operator, manufacturer, and other parties, per CBS News.

“We are continuing to do everything in our power to support everyone impacted here and will continue to recognize the human impact this event has had,” said Mayor Scott.

Wrongful Death Suits

In addition to potential cases filed by government entities, wrongful death cases filed by family members of the men who died may also follow.

Statute § 3-902 of Maryland Laws says, “If the death of a person was caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default of a vessel, an action in rem may be maintained against the vessel.” A victim’s spouse, parent, or child may bring a personal injury case against those associated with the ship.

Related: Examples of Wrongful Death Cases Worth Fighting For

Companies Seek Legal Protections Against Potential Cases

The ship is owned by Grace Ocean Private, a Singapore-based company that provides water transportation services, and is managed by Synergy Marine Group, a Singapore-based charter vessel company.

The companies have already attempted to limit the potential legal cases that could come their way. On April 1, 2024, they preemptively filed a six-page “limitation of liability” petition.

Under the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, a shipowner can try to limit the amount they have to pay to the value of the ship if their vessel is involved in an accident. The filing seeks to limit the companies’ liability at roughly $43.6 million, per the Associated Press.

Many lawsuits could be tied to the Baltimore bridge collapse, and we will have to wait and see which cases produce results for the many individuals and companies who have been hurt by the deadly and expensive collapse.

Do You Have a Case to Discuss?

If you or a loved one were injured or caused harm due to the negligence of another party, you deserve justice. Discuss the details of your case with a personal injury attorney to see if you have a case worth fighting for. All consultations are free. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 to talk to attorney TJ Grimaldi.

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