Dislodged or Missing Manhole Covers Can Cause Serious Accidents
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento car accident lawyer. When our injury lawyers first meet with clients, we always ask them to describe exactly how their car accidents or personal injuries occurred. While many of them report similar events, others describe highly unusual road mishaps – including those involving dislodged or missing manhole covers. Far too often, these less common events lead to traumatic injuries or even wrongful deaths.
How Do Manhole Openings or Covers Wind Up Causing Accidents?
Nearly all of us presume when we get in our cars each day that we’ll be traveling over flat road surfaces. Unfortunately, heavy rains, careless road crew activities – and even combustible materials underneath manhole covers – can all wreak havoc. One vehicle can run over a slightly loose manhole cover, causing it to slide out of place or even become airborne.
Since many of these covers are made of cast iron and can weigh between 85 and 300 pounds, once they get displaced or fly up into the air, drivers and others in the vicinity can be seriously injured or even killed.
During one such incident, after the person drove rapidly toward a manhole, one of the tires dislodged it – causing the tire to fall inside the open manhole. The car then flipped over on the road, leaving it vulnerable to another vehicle that then hit it and killed the first driver.
In another incident in 2016, an airborne manhole cover flew like a deadly missile through a woman’s windshield in the Boston area – killing her. Investigators said the cover weighed over 200 pounds. Transportation officials immediately began a thorough inspection of all other manhole covers in the vicinity.
Proving Liability in Manhole Cover Accident Cases Can Be Challenging
You will need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney and one or more transportation or road work experts to help prove your case. In this type of case, an investigation must be made as to whether or not the local authorities (or their road crews) were properly maintaining all the area road surfaces, periodically checking to be sure all manhole covers were properly secured.
If the manhole cover involved in your accident was actively being repaired at the time of your accident, proper signage should have been posted – and the area properly blocked off from road travel to prevent an accident. Even leaving one of these covers slightly ajar can directly cause an accident.
An expert hired by your law firm will also need to check and see if the asphalt surrounding the cover involved in your accident was properly poured so that the cover could rest “flat” or properly atop the opening.
If the manhole cover was properly set into the asphalt, all other contributing factors including the weather must be examined. In addition, an expert must determine if any gases below the surface of the manhole may have caused it to fly upwards, harming someone or landing back in a slightly crooked position.
Finally, a local power company may also be partially responsible for damages if timely inspections of the wiring and insulation beneath the manhole cover were not being regularly carried out. In some instances, the insulation covering wiring beneath a manhole cover can give off gases that can cause a manhole cover to “explode” off the surface of the street. It’s your attorney’s duty to discover whether any of these various parties charged with properly maintaining the manhole covers behaved negligently – thereby failing to protect the public’s safety.
Sacramento Car Accident & Personal Injury Lawyers
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento car accident lawyer. When you, or a loved one, have been injured or tragically passed away because of the negligent actions of someone else, call me at (916) 921-6400 for free and friendly advice. Or, call free of charge at (800) 404-5400.
I work exclusively on cases involving personal injury and wrongful death.
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Visit my website, autoaccident.com.
Image Attribution: By Piotrus – Own work – Wikimedia Commons