All drivers accept some degree of risk when they get behind the wheel. They know there’s always a chance of coming across a drunk, distracted, or otherwise negligent driver. But nobody expects to be injured or killed by a malfunctioning guardrail. Over recent months, however, more reports have surfaced about defective guardrail end terminals impaling vehicles and causing severe and sometimes fatal injuries to drivers and passengers.
Specifically, the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal has been blamed for numerous traffic deaths, and multiple lawsuits have been filed as a result. Below, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about ET-Plus guardrail lawsuits:
- What exactly is the “end terminal” of a guardrail and how is it supposed to work?
Guardrails are installed along highways and other roadways to prevent cars from going off embankments or veering into oncoming traffic in the event the driver loses control or goes off course. The end terminals are the parts installed where the guardrail begins and ends.
Federal regulations require guardrail end terminals to “telescope” inward or to be directed away from the car upon impact. When a driver hits an end terminal and it doesn’t function as intended, the steel rails can penetrate the vehicle, causing severe injuries to occupants.
- What is the alleged defect in the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal?
The end terminals of the ET-Plus guardrail, manufactured by Dallas-based Trinity Industries, Inc., are designed to absorb pressure and push the metal railings through a U-shaped chute and away from the vehicle upon impact. However, lawsuits allege that the ET-Plus guardrails have been jamming and breaking, and penetrating vehicles as a result. One study published by The Safety Institute, a non-profit product safety advocacy organization, determined that the ET-Plus end terminals were nearly three times as likely to cause a fatality than Trinity’s previous model.
- What’s an example of an ET-Plus guardrail-related accident?
Twenty-one-year-old Omar Artis of Peoria, Illinois, died in the hospital shortly after his car veered off Interstate 155 and struck the end terminal of an ET-Plus guardrail in 2015. The guardrail failed to absorb the energy or divert the metal railing away from the vehicle, instead piercing the car’s grill and penetrating the length of the vehicle, impaling Artis.
- What claims are being made in the lawsuits against Trinity Industries, Inc.?
A Virginia guardrail engineer testified in a federal lawsuit that Trinity failed to notify the Federal Highway Administration about a change in the design of its end terminal. The change allegedly saved the company on costs, but crash tests showed that the new design had a high failure rate, resulting in cars being speared or flipped. Trinity was held liable for fraud in 2014 in a federal lawsuit filed by the State of Virginia; the $175 million verdict was later tripled.
In 2015, a U.S. district court jury returned a $663 million verdict against Trinity, also for fraud, for falsifying federal certification claims related to its ET-Plus products.
The families of those who have been killed or injured in accidents involving ET-Plus end terminals have also filed lawsuits. Legal claims made against Trinity include the following:
- Strict product liability
- Willful and wanton conduct
- Breach of warranty
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
Set up a Free Consultation with an ET-Plus Guardrail Injury Lawyer
The skilled attorneys at The Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC have a deep understanding of the case law and statutes pertaining to ET-Plus guardrail lawsuits. If you were injured or lost a family member due to the failure of an ET-Plus guardrail end terminal, you may be entitled to compensation.
Our firm has recovered more than $250 million in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Contact our office via phone or text message at (877) 544- 5323 for a free consultation, or send us a message online. We’ll come to you if you’re unable to visit our office.