What would you call a bridge that peels back the metal canopies of big rigs that defy its clearance warning? In Durham, North Carolina, they have a name for the old railroad bridge that has been the scene of more than 100 truck accidents since 2008; they call it the can opener. As NBC News reports, the problem is that the underpass, located at South Gregson Street near Peabody Street, has a clearance of only 11 feet, 8 inches rather than the standard 14 feet that the Federal Highway Administration recommends. Since North Carolina law sets a maximum height of 13 feet, 6 inches for trailers, many drivers take for granted that they can scoot under the bridge. That often produces disastrous results.
The outcome is unfortunate in many ways. It can take hours to get a rig out from under a structure. Then whatever cargo the truck was hauling must be transferred to a new vehicle. But the greatest setback is that insurance companies won’t pay a claim on a truck that’s been “can opened.” Moreover, North Carolina’s contributory negligence law holds that an injured party whose own negligence contributed to the cause of the accident in any way cannot claim compensation.
In other jurisdictions, a truck driver might be successful suing the state over the low bridge. After all, when faulty highway design causes a traffic accident, injured parties may be able to hold the state accountable. The bridge does have signage attached that warns of the clearance height. But a plaintiff might argue that since the bridge does not provide the FHA recommended level of clearance, the state should post a more elaborate, eye-catching warning.
The NBC report brought up an important point to remember for anyone renting a truck. Many victims of the can opener blame Siri for leading them into a trap. The lesson here is do not attempt to navigate with your usual GPS. You need a truck GPS to warn you off routes that have insufficient clearance or restrict carriers due to excess weight.
If you have been involved in a truck accident anywhere in North Carolina, seek reliable advice from a knowledgeable attorney. Call Lanier Law Group, P.A. today at 855-234-7619 to schedule a free consultation.
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