Texas-based Trinity Industries has come under scrutiny in the wake of reports that its ET-Plus guardrail system has been linked to a number of injuries and even deaths in highway accidents across the U.S. Additionally, the company recently had a substantial jury verdict against it in a case involving allegations that it defrauded the U.S. government by failing to disclose design changes to the same guardrail system in 2005.
If you have been in an accident involving a highway guardrail, contact Attorney Group for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can help you determine whether you are eligible to pursue a claim for compensation. If you have a case, we can connect you with an affiliated attorney who can help you to file your Trinity guardrail lawsuit and seek the compensation to which you may be entitled.
Trinity Guardrail Linked to Injuries
In October 2014, a federal jury found Trinity Industries, Inc. guilty of defrauding the U.S. government when the manufacturer neglected to inform the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) of changes it made to its guardrail system 2005. The changes allegedly went unreported to safety regulators for approximately seven years despite the increased risk of injury and even death in accidents involving the guardrail. Lawsuits allege that the company manufactured and marketed a defective product and failed to inform the government of design changes despite having knowledge and test results that indicating that the product was potentially unsafe.
According to plaintiffs pursuing claims against Trinity, the end terminal of the railhead is intended to move along the rail upon impact in order to properly absorb the shock from the collision. While the company had designed a guardrail endcap that was deemed to be safe since the early 1990s, according to reports, Trinity shortened this piece of metal by approximately one inch and allegedly neglected to inform federal agencies of the design change. As a result, plaintiffs allege that the shortened metal could potential result in a jammed guardrail, placing occupants of vehicles at an increased risk of severe injuries, including impalement, and death in the event of a collision with the guardrail.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a study in which it was found that the ET-Plus was 2.86 times more likely to result in a fatality and 1.36 times more likely to cause injuries in a collision than prior Trinity designs. Due to the possibility for severe complications, injuries, and death, the manufacturer is currently facing at least 14 lawsuits in which its product has been alleged to be responsible for injuries and deaths. Additionally, Trinity reportedly stopped shipments of the system, and at least 39 states as well as the District of Columbia have banned new installations pending a more comprehensive evaluation of the product’s safety.
Trinity Guardrail Lawsuits
In one particular lawsuit, a plaintiff maintains that she was a passenger in a car when it struck an ET-Plus end terminal in February 2013. According to police reports, the guardrail impaled the vehicle, which subsequently overturned and resulted in broken bones and other injuries to the plaintiff. Additionally, in her Trinity guardrail lawsuit, the woman claims that the impaling guardrail pinned her child to the roof, resulting in brain trauma and pelvic injuries.
Another recent case filed against Trinity on behalf of a man who was driving an SUV in January 2014 alleges that his vehicle slammed into an ET-Plus end terminal which subsequently impaled the vehicle and caused the man to lose both of his legs. The plaintiff’s lawyer maintains that the guardrail was unreasonably dangerous, and instead of absorbing the energy and shock from the collision, the guardrail penetrated through the driver’s side floorboard.
In addition to injured victims and families pursuing wrongful death claims on behalf of their loved ones, several states are also filing lawsuits against Trinity as well. The Virginia Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the company in December 2014 alleging deceit and fraud by Trinity in regards to the ET-Plus guardrail and accusing the company of selling the Commonwealth thousands of unapproved products that were not adequately tested to ensure the safety of the state’s motorists. The complaint also alleges that the company failed to disclose five crash tests between 2005 and 2006 in which the guardrail showed repeated failures.
FHA Allegedly Unaware of Design Change
According to court documents, the FHA was unaware of the design change made in 2005 until a whistleblower notifed officials of the potentially dangerous design change. In October 2014, a Texas jury returned a $175 million verdict against Trinity, an amount that could triple to reach $525 million under the federal false claims act.
Guardrail System Passes First Crash Tests
In February 2015, the FHA acknowledged that Trinity’s guardrail system passed the first eight government-mandated crash tests. According to the agency, the devices used in the tests did not penetrate the vehicles or the cabins, and the final assessment of the device’s safety, which will include results from a second round of tests, will be released after the agency completes its review of the data.
The agency’s review of the first eight tests found that the guardrails met requirements, including a mandate that the ET-Plus should not show potential for penetrating the occupant compartment. According to a separate report conducted by a third-party reviewer hired by the FHA, the guardrails passed. During the eighth test, a car was driven at 62 miles per hour into an end of the product, according to the crash-test plan approved by the FHWA. After the impact, the car spun clockwise, coming to a stop in the opposite direction, and the guardrail had bent onto itself. The driver-side door was pushed inward and dented.
However, according to an engineering expert, the guardrail terminal failed this last of eight crash tests when it impacted the driver-side door. Images captured show a large dent in the driver-side area, and in his affidavit, the man asserts that amounts to a failure for the purposes of the test. According to him, intrusions into or deformations of the occupant compartment that could cause life-threatening injuries are not to be permitted, and the deformation not only could have caused disabling injuries, but showed a propensity to penetrate the vehicle and cause catastrophic injuries.
Although Trinity has maintained that it is complying with all testing requirements and it remains to be seen whether the last crash test will be labeled as a pass or fail, those who are currently suffering injuries may still be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation from the company if it can be proven that the guardrail system caused injuries or death. Additional complaints filed against the manufacturer accuse the company of attempting to make a profit off the system since the new design was reportedly cheaper to produce as it used less metal. Plaintiffs argue that this profit motive has turned a highway safety device into a defective and unsafe product.
Family members who are grieving the loss of a loved one due to injuries allegedly caused by the guardrail may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their loved one and recover damages for their loss. It is important to seek legal counsel from an experienced Trinity guardrail lawsuit attorney to determine whether you have a case as you may be entitled to hold the manufacturer responsible for your medical bills or expenses, your lost wages, vehicular damage, pain and suffering, or any modifications you must make to your home due to permanent or debilitating injuries.
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If you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a highway guardrail, contact Attorney Group for more information about your options. There are no out-of-pocket costs to speak with us, and if you have a case, we can connect you with an affiliated attorney who can file a Trinity guardrail lawsuit on your behalf and help you to seek the compensation to which you may be entitled.