Guardrails are roadway features that are supposed to prevent people from driving off roadways due to an accident. They are made up of multiple pieces that telescope, or slide into each other, to absorb the impact of the vehicle. The guardrail helps to either slow the vehicle down when it makes contact or collapsing if it is hit head on, stopping the vehicle and saving lives. In 2000, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved Trinity Industries’ ET Plus guardrail. However, in 2005, Trinity Industries’ previously tested and approved guardrail was modified in order to cut costs. In addition to other changes, they changed the dimensions at the end of the guardrail, called the rail head or end terminal, from 5 inches to 4 inches which saved the industry $2 per guardrail ($50,000 per year). This seemingly minor change is causing the rail metal to pierce through vehicles, usually killing the people inside, as opposed to folding safely to the side of the vehicle as it was designed to do. According to a study done at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, you are almost 4 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash with the ET Plus guardrail than with the previous ET 2000 version. In a widely publicized lawsuit filed by Josh Harmon, the Texas jury found that Trinity Industries failed to disclose all of the changes made to the guardrail to the FHWA. However the ruling to make Trinity pay $663 million for cheating the federal government was overturned in 2015. Following the lawsuit, the ET Plus guardrail passed all crash tests and was approved for federal reimbursement, despite being the source of countless lawsuits and dozens of deaths. There are still hundreds of thousands of these guardrails all across the country. If you were injured in a car accident involving a guardrail, you need an auto accident lawyer to insure that you get the help and compensation that you deserve.
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