When cars overtook horses as the main form of transportation, cities began installing guardrails along highways and roadways. For the most part, these new traffic devices did an excellent job of saving people from serious injury or death. According to the American Traffic Safety Services Association, when guardrails are installed correctly they can reduce fatalities and serious injury crashes by 16 to 47 percent. The main function of a guardrail is to prevent errant drivers from hitting fixed objects, going over embankments or crossing into opposing lanes of traffic. A functional guardrail should slowly decelerate a vehicle and prevent it from entering back into the roadway in an unpredictable manner.
Despite continued improvements in guardrail design, many people are seriously injured or killed after their vehicle hits a defective guardrail. The guardrail may act as a ramp, spear a vehicle or in some cases cause a vehicle to stop abruptly. Collisions with a defective guardrail can result in serious injuries such as amputations or even death. Victims may need to take extensive time off of work and some may never be able to work again. Any person that is injured in an accident involving a guardrail may be able to seek some measure of justice through a personal injury claim. Our team of guardrail accident lawyers at Butler Khan are here for you. We are committed to getting victims of guardrail accidents the justice and support that they deserve. If you’ve been injured in a car accident involving a guardrail, our legal team can examine the unique facts of your case and let you know if you have a claim that can be pursued. You can reach out to us anytime at 678-940-1444.
Liability For Guardrail Accidents
Guardrail accidents can be extremely complex events and may involve multiple liable parties. This could include the company that manufactured a guardrail. It may also involve the contractor responsible for maintaining a guardrail. In some circumstances, a city could be liable for a defective or missing guardrail.
- Product Liability Claims: Companies that create guardrails have a legal obligation to make products that are reasonably safe. To that end, guardrail manufacturers must thoroughly test their products and pass certain safety standards. A guardrail manufacturer could be liable for a collision if a guardrail accident was caused by a design, manufacturing or marketing defect. Design defects are inherent to the way a guardrail was built whereas manufacturing defects occur during the creation of the guardrail. A marketing defect may occur if a guardrail manufacturer fails to warn about the non-obvious dangers associated with their products.
- Subcontractor Liability: The Georgia Department of Transportation (“GDOT”) along with its subcontractors have a legal responsibility to identify and timely repair damaged guardrails. After any vehicle hits a guardrail, it will typically need to be repaired. A damaged guardrail end terminal could spear a vehicle. A damaged w-beam guardrail could cause a vehicle to vault over the railing and into a hazard like a tree or lamppost. Subcontractors could also be liable for a guardrail accident if they instill a guardrail incorrectly thereby creating a hazard.
- Municipal Liability: In many states, a city or state agency could be liable if a section of roadway is missing a guardrail. Generally speaking, guardrails should be installed on sharp curves, steep slopes, bridges, and medians. If there is a history of accidents along a stretch of roadway due to a missing guardrail, this could form the basis of a negligence claim. It may be construed as a dangerous condition on public property.
It is essential that evidence is properly preserved after any accident involving a guardrail. Evidence is what will ultimately be used to determine what entities may be liable for a guardrail accident. To that end, photos of the accident site should be taken. Maintenance records for the guardrail at issue should be carefully examined. The make and model of the guardrail involved in the collision should be understood. There are a few brands of guardrails in particular that account for a disproportionate number of collisions involving defective guardrails.
Different Types of Dangerous Guardrails
Several companies have manufactured guardrails that have proved to be quite dangerous. Some dangerous guardrails have been created using parts from various guardrail manufacturers. This has been a particular problem in Georgia where a young woman was killed in an accident involving a “Frankensteined” guardrail. The guardrail involved in the crash was made with mixed parts from various companies. In that case, the guardrail end terminal locked up and speared the vehicle causing the victim to sustain fatal injuries. Several other guardrail types and brands have been involved in lawsuits for their dangerous designs.
- Trinity Industries: Trinity Industries is one of the largest guardrail manufacturers in the world. They’ve been embroiled in a series of lawsuits involving their ET-Plus end terminal. An end terminal is a type of guardrail device that sits at the end of the guardrail. They are designed to slowly decelerate errant vehicles that hit guardrails head-on. The company allegedly altered the design of the ET-Plus end terminal by shaving off an inch of a metal component. Researchers found that this lead to a significant increase in the risk of injury and death.
- Lindsay Transportation Solutions: Guardrail manufacturer Lindsay Transportation Solutions created the controversial X-LITE Guardrail End Terminal. Internal company documents show that Lindsay was aware of potential defects with the end terminal. In particular, the tube on the slider bracket was not big enough to allow a cable to pass through it consistently. Another problem is that shear bolts on the terminal don’t always break off which have caused some vehicles to be speared. Several states including Georgia have begun removing these guardrails from the roads.
Even if a guardrail has been thoroughly tested and proves to be safe, it can still be unsafe due to faulty repairs or improper installation. Guardrails are exposed to the elements and naturally degrade over time even if they aren’t involved in a collision. When a guardrail is hit by a vehicle, the damaged section will typically need to be replaced. It is crucial that state agencies and the subcontractors that they hire regularly inspect guardrails along the roadway for damage and perform any required maintenance. Similarly, guardrails should only be installed by trained technicians. An improperly installed guardrail can negate required safety features.
Common Injuries Associated With Guardrail Accidents
When a guardrail is working properly, it can save lives and reduce serious injuries. Guardrails should prevent vehicles from hitting fixed objects or going over embankments. But when a guardrail malfunctions for any reason, victims are often left with serious injuries. What follows are some of the most common injuries associated with guardrail collisions.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: High speed collisions with guardrails can result in damage to a person’s spinal cord. This can vary from mild strains to more severe injuries like herniated discs.
- Amputations: Guardrails are rigid metal structures that can pierce a vehicle’s interior. This can lead to arm and leg amputations.
- Head Injuries: If a guardrail fails to slow a vehicle down properly, this can result in a person’s head hitting their steering wheel or window.
- Broken Bones: Hitting a guardrail can cause a vehicle to stop suddenly or roll over. This can result in broken bones especially in a person’s hand a wrist.
- Death: Sadly, many victims of guardrail accidents never get the opportunity to recover and die due to the severe nature of their injuries.
Even after a person’s physical injuries have healed, many survivors of car accidents are left with long term psychological trauma such as PTSD. For many individuals, the symptoms of PTSD may include re-experiencing the trauma through nightmares or memories. Some victims may engage in avoidance behavior and do everything they can to avoid certain roads. Others may avoid being in vehicles all together.
Why You Should Hire A Personal Injury Attorney After A Guardrail Accident
It can be hard to know where to begin after any serious accident involving a guardrail. Victims may have to contend with life-altering injuries or even the death of a loved one. In these situations, it is important that accident victims understand that they do have rights and may be able to pursue a civil claim. There are many reasons that a person involved in a collision with a guardrail should consider hiring a personal injury attorney.
- Legal Expertise: Personal injury attorneys have specialized knowledge. They have knowledge of relevant laws, regulations and legal procedures related to any guardrail litigation.
- Determining Liability: Establishing liability in accidents involving guardrails can be extremely complex. A personal injury attorney can investigate any particular accident, gather evidence, subpoena records and determine who may be at fault.
- No Up-Front Costs: Pursuing any type of litigation can be extremely costly. One of the great advantages of hiring an attorney is that they will advance all costs of pursuing your case. This means that you don’t pay anything out of pocket.
- Contingency Fee Guarantee: Personal injury attorneys work entirely off of a contingency fee basis. They only get paid if they are able to successfully resolve your case. Their payment comes from any settlement or verdict they are able to win on your behalf.
- Negotiating Settlements: A personal injury attorney can present a compelling case on your behalf and use their knowledge of the law to maximize the settlement that you receive.
Winning or losing any legal case often comes down to having an experienced attorney fighting on your behalf. Guardrail companies will often do everything in their power to deny liability for any accident involving their products. This is exactly what happened with all of the litigation surrounding Trinity Industries and Lindsay Transportation Solutions. They have teams of lawyers fighting for their interests. A personal injury attorney can make sure your interests are front and center and also being taken into consideration.
Getting Legal Help After A Guardrail Accident
We at The Butler Kahn Law Firm extend our best wishes to all of those harmed by defective guardrails. It is our sincere hope that the companies and subcontractors responsible for many of these collisions are held accountable. City and state agencies also need to do their part and help remove these dangerous products from our roadways. Our legal team is committed to getting accident victims the support and justice that they are entitled to under the law.
Have you or someone that you care about been injured in a car accident with a guardrail? You may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. Our team of personal injury attorneys are here to help in any way that we can. We have consistently achieved exceptional results for our clients including a record breaking $40,000,000 wrongful death & injury settlement following a guardrail accident in Atlanta, Georgia. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into any accident with a guardrail we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at 678-940-1444.
What guardrail types are dangerous? The Trinity Industries ET-Plus End Terminal and the X-LITE Guardrail End Terminal have both been involved in many serious injury collisions.
How much does it cost to hire a guardrail accident lawyer? It doesn’t cost anything up front to hire an guardrail accident lawyer and they only get paid out of any proceeds if they manage to settle your case.
What are common injuries associated with guardrail collisions? Guardrail accidents often involve serious injuries including amputations, broken bones and spinal cord injuries.
Who can be held liable for a guardrail accident? There could be many liable parties for a guardrail collision including a guardrail manufacturer and the company responsible for repairing damaged guardrails.
How long will it take for my guardrail accident case to settle? If you have a claim that can be pursued, the amount of time it can take for your case to settle can vary greatly. However, many cases take several years to finally settle.