Pending Lawsuits Allege Guardrail Manufacturers Financially Motivated to Compromise Safety
Guardrails are intended to make our highways and freeways safer by reducing the risk of roadway departure accidents. However, a number of lawsuits have recently been filed by car accident injury and fatality victims who claim a cost-saving motivated guardrail design has compromised the safety of vehicle occupants. According to media reports and pending lawsuits, the redesigned guardrail, referred to as ET Plus by Trinity Industries, has less metal at the end of the guardrail. This modification allegedly has caused the ends of the guardrail to splinter off and become a knife slicing through motor vehicles in collisions.
The widespread national news reports of gruesome deaths and lost limbs caused by the guardrails has motivated the Federal Highway Administration to initiate a study of the real world performance of the guardrail terminals. Terminals are the ends of the guardrail. The study will evaluate whether the guardrail terminals can withstand the force generated during a head on collision at 62 mph.
The federal study follows findings in the wake of a prior study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham. The researchers reviewed fatal crashes in Missouri and Ohio. The authors of the study found that the guardrail modification “placed motorists at a higher level of risk of both serious injury and fatality” when compared with the original design.
Sean Kane, president of the board of directors of The Safety Institute told ABC, “We are seeing failures that shouldn’t be happening. I have real concerns about leaving them on the highways.”
While the ET Plus has passed crash testing, federal safety experts are anxious to see how the guardrail terminals perform in real world situations. Trinity has denied that the reduced amount of metal has compromised the integrity of the guardrail terminals. The guardrail manufacturer points out that the ET Plus guardrail design complies with federal standards and has performed adequately in crash tests.
The inventor of the original Trinity guardrail design Dean Sicking told ABC that he was not involved in the redesign. Further, he indicated he did not really understand the rational for the change. However, internal company emails obtained by ABC might provide a disturbing answer. The memo prepared by engineers at Trinity determined that reducing an inch of metal from the diameter of the guardrail terminals would result in a $4 savings for each guardrail. The memo calculated that the change would save the company $50,000 per year.
Our law firm will be closely following pending lawsuits and the study being conducted by the federal government as we review potential guardrail injury lawsuits. Because federal standards provide only a minimum requirement, Trinity’s compliance with that standard does not necessarily preclude liability for injuries caused by the ET Plus.
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If you are involved in an auto collision and/or suffer more serious injuries because of a defective guardrail, we might be able to help you pursue financial compensation for your injuries. Our Georgia attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.