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What Happens if a Highway Guardrail Causes Injury or Vehicle Damage?

Published on Aug 6, 2020 by Thomas Law Offices.

Empty road with guardrail

When you are driving on the highway, you might think that the guardrails on the side of the road are there for your protection. While that may have been the intent when the Federal Highway Administration approved the guardrails, it turns out that they are not always efficient at protecting drivers and passengers in an accident. In fact, sometimes they can cause serious injury and even death.

After an accident that causes injuries and damages, it’s important to understand your legal options to recover financial compensation. If you crashed into a guardrail and it caused even more damage than would’ve happened otherwise, you might want to consider filing a claim against a manufacturer whose product does more harm than good. Thomas Law Offices will fully investigate your accident to determine who was at fault and then can build your claim from there.

What Dangers Do Guardrails Pose in a Car Accident?

Even though guardrails are intended to protect you from further damage when you crash by absorbing impact and deflecting the car, they can end up causing you more harm depending on how you hit them. In fact, sometimes the metal of the guardrails come apart and can spear a vehicle when struck. More specifically, Trinity Industries’ ET-Plus guardrails have caused drivers to lose limbs when they crashed into an updated end piece.

In 2005, Trinity Industries updated a key piece of their guardrails to be four inches rather than the previous five inches. Even though this was a change in design, the Federal Highway Administration did not learn about this change until years later. Trinity stated that the change did not affect the guardrail’s performance, but some people who crashed into the metal barriers had catastrophic experiences with the updates.

Other than the injuries that blunt force trauma from any car accident can cause, the shorter guardrails could break apart and cause loss of limbs to drivers and passengers. In North Carolina, a man who crashed into the metal rail lost both of his legs in the accident because the guardrail locked up and turned into a spear rather than absorbing his impact. Crashing into any fixed object poses a hazard, but these metal guardrails can pose a serious threat and even death, which is the opposite of their intended use.

Where Are These Guardrails Used?

Even though around 90% of the highways in the United States are lined with guardrails by Trinity Industries, their specific ET-Plus model is banned from further use in 44 states, including Illinois. West Virginia is taking it a step further and is removing that model from its highways. Other states could do the same, but the endeavor would be costly, so for now they stopped using that specific model for new guardrails.

Since these guardrail models have not been completely removed from every state and you still run a risk of crashing into them, it’s important to keep in mind that guardrails are not as safe as you would expect them to be. If you can, avoid hitting the metal rails as much as possible. However, in a car accident, you don’t always have control over the situation, so sometimes they’re impossible to avoid.

Thomas Law Offices Can Offer You Legal Support

Car accidents can cause damages and injuries depending on the situation. When you weren’t at fault, and a guardrail made the damages worse, you might be interested in filing a claim to hold the responsible party liable for their actions. With the help of Thomas Law Offices, you’ll be able to recover damages from the responsible party.

Our experienced team of Chicago car accident lawyers know that the best cases are built on thorough investigations into what happened. We’ll look at all angles of your accident so that we can piece together the full story and ensure that fault is placed on the correct party. Reach out to our office today so that we can discuss your potential claim and get started right away.

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Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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