Tanker Truck Explosion Closes I-94, Damages Freeway

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A massive explosion on I-94 near the Southfield Freeway in Dearborn on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, shut the freeway down for days and caused significant damage to the roadway and nearby sewers. The highway has now reopened, but the repairs aren’t done yet.

At 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, two cars and a tanker trailer collided. The semi truck, hauling 13,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel exploded. The fire raged until 1:00 p.m. and spread gasoline on the surrounding roadway. Eye witness Arnold Mitchell was there when it happened:

“I seen the explosion…I actually seen the crash and I heard the explosion. But I seen a big ball of fire and I’m like, man, you gotta get outta here, we don’t know if something else’s gonna happen.”

The explosion also set the nearby sewer lines on fire, which meant that the tanker’s contents had gotten into the drains and they may have been damaged.

One of the two vehicles flipped over the median and onto the other side of the roadway. That vehicle was cleared and Westbound I-94 was reopened late Wednesday afternoon, but damage left the other direction closed through the weekend.

On Eastbound I-94, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) scrambled to replace 150 feet of concrete damaged by the explosion. MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross described the scene:

“[It] looked like moon craters, lots of little ones.”

The total cost of the crash is unknown, but the cement alone cost the city $109,000.

And that damage isn’t covered by any of the drivers’ no fault insurance. Michigan’s No Fault Insurance covers medical expenses and related damages like lost wages and attendant care. It doesn’t cover damage done to vehicles or roads as a result of an accident.

That’s why most insurers encourage customers to also purchase collision and comprehensive insurance. A collision policy, not required by the state, covers the cost of physical damage done to the insured vehicle as a result of the accident. Comprehensive covers everything else, including the damage done to the roadway.

The question of which policy applies gets even more complicated because this accident involves a tanker trailer. The owner of the semi truck, trailer, and gasoline inside it could each have policies that apply to the accident. But if the damage to I-94 exceeds the value of all of those policies, the companies and the drivers may be on the hook to pay the city back for the difference.

David Christensen is an auto accident attorney for Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He helps the victims of automobile crashes fight their insurance companies to make sure they get the benefits they paid for. If you or someone you know has been injured in a serious auto accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.