Injuries Caused by Guardrail & Roadway Defects
Guardrails are safety features designed to keep motor vehicles from veering off a roadway. They are generally installed at dangerous curves or as barriers between a roadway and a hazardous location, such as a deep culvert, a body of water, or stationary objects, like a stand of trees.
How effective guardrails are depends on the size and weight of the vehicle, how fast it is going, and the angle at which the guardrail is hit. For the most part, guardrails work well and have saved many lives. However, flaws in design, manufacturing, and installation sometimes make these “safety” devices dangerous.
If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one due to a defective guardrail, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. The car wreck attorneys at Rhine Law Firm, P.C., have spent decades successfully representing injury victims, helping them recover for losses caused by the negligence of another party.
Defective Guardrails: X-Lite and ET Plus
In recent years, two guardrail designs have come under scrutiny and have been linked to many severe injuries and deaths. The safety allegations concern the end pieces of the guardrails, which are supposed to cause the rail to peel away from the posts and the vehicle when that vehicle crashes into the end of the guardrail. But in many documented cases, these end pieces have failed and the rail has actually pierced the vehicle like a sword. The guardrails in question are the Lindsay Transportation Solutions’ X-LITE, and the ET Plus, manufactured by Texas-based Trinity Industries Incorporated. Both end pieces have been installed throughout North Carolina. Most states have stopped installing both the X-LITE and the ET Plus, but haven’t removed and replaced them, because it would cost too much. North Carolina has an estimated 10,000 ET Plus end pieces still lining its roadways and endangering lives.
In 2014, a North Carolina man hit an ET Plus end piece on Interstate 40 and it failed. This caused the rail of the guardrail to spear into the man’s car and slice off one of his legs. The other leg was so badly damaged it had to be amputated. The once-active Eagle Scout and former Marine from Graham is now struggling to walk on prosthetic legs. Trinity Industries settled with him for an undisclosed amount, one day before the case was to go to trial.
False Claims Act Lawsuit
In the case of Trinity Industries’ ET Plus, the original design had been tested and approved, but the manufacturer changed the design in 2005, making the end piece smaller to save on material costs. This newer design was never approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), leading to charges that the company defrauded the government by selling them the altered design. In 2014, a Texas jury found Trinity liable and ordered them to pay $175 million to the U.S. Treasury. That amount was tripled to $525 million under federal law. It is suspected that the reduced size of the redesigned end piece may be responsible for its failure.
Take Action by Contacting a Skilled Attorney
If you’ve been injured or lost a family member because of a defective guardrail, you deserve to be compensated for such losses as medical bills, lost wages, funeral expenses, lost future income, and much more. Our car accident lawyers know the state laws of North Carolina and will fight for you.
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