The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog

Woman Dies Via Airborne Highway Sign

In a scene reminiscent of something from Final Destination 16, a woman died from injuries sustained from a flying road sign, reports NBC 10 Philadelphia. A semi-truck was driving along when its side mirror made contact with the sign. The sign took flight, caught a little wind, and smashed through 31-year-old Emily Morris’ windshield. She sustained head injuries and crashed her car into another barrier. She succumbed to her injuries two days later.

Though this has been described as a “freak accident,” lawyers know better. Most of the time, there is no such thing as a freak accident. Someone is at fault here.

Is it the construction company's fault? They placed a sign on a concrete barrier that separated two lanes going in opposite directions. We have all traveled on freeways that are under construction, with narrow lanes bordered by concrete and no escape should something go horribly wrong. Was it necessary to place a sign straddling both lanes, instead of two signs, one on each shoulder?

Under a negligence theory, the construction company would arguably have a duty to make the under-construction road as safe as possible for drivers. If they failed in that duty by installing an unsafe sign, then they could possibly be held liable.

Though "freak accident" is not exactly a legal term, it does come into play in negligence law. The rule is, was the accident part of the risk created by placing the sign in its allegedly negligent location? When they put a sign on a barrier straddling two narrow lanes, was it reasonably foreseeable that the sign could be hit and hurt someone?

Perhaps it was not foreseeable that a sign would be hit by a truck, catch air, and fly directly into the path of Emily Morris' windshield. The exact physics of that are pretty ridiculous. Depending on the installation at the construction site, it may have been foreseeable that the sign could hurt someone in some manner. We'll leave the rest for the lawyers who take the case to argue over.

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