Trinity Industries, a Texas based rail transport company, is being subjected to tort liability for serious injuries, and highway deaths, caused by its defective guardrail end cap, the ET-Plus.
The ET-Plus’ original design was safe, but there is evidence that Trinity secretly changed its design to increase its profit margins.
Trinity knew that it was putting motorists, including drivers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, at an increased risk of injury or death. Trinity’s ET-Plus failed crash safety tests, but Trinity continued to sell its modified product. Studies estimate that Trinity sold nearly 500,000 of its modified end caps to customers in nearly all 50 states since 2005.
The true impact of Trinity’s conduct on Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents will remain unknown until guardrail accidents are investigated by personal injury lawyers.
It is highly unlikely that Trinity will simply accept responsibility for any of the injuries, and deaths, caused by the ET-Plus railhead. That is why victims, and the families of victims, who have been injured by a defective guardrail system are having these accidents investigated by attorneys.
A Dangerous Highway Safety Device
The irony is tragic. A railhead and guardrail are supposed to keep motorists safe. Railheads are designed to rest on the end of highway guardrails, and absorb energy from head-on motor vehicle collisions. The railhead collapses, and then pushes, the highway guardrail away from the car, or truck, that impacts the railhead. The defective ET-Plus railheads jam, pushing guardrails into vehicles like giant spears.
In 2012, a guard rail installer from Virginia, Joshua Harman, brought a whistle blower lawsuit against Trinity. The lawsuit alleged that Trinity secretly changed the proven design of the ET-Plus railhead without properly testing the modified ET-Plus on guardrails to make sure that the railhead was safe for use. Mr. Harmon won that lawsuit. ET-Plus-Guardrail Complaint-ED-Texas-2012
The original ET-Plus had been crash tested, and approved, by the Federal Highway Transportation Administration in 2005. Internal e-mails between Trinity’s engineers revealed that Trinity later shortened a metal component in its railhead from 5 inches, to 4 inches, in order to save $2 per railhead, or $50,000 per year. Trinity and its research partner, the Texas Transportation Institute, conducted five failed crash safety tests of the modified ET-Plus in 2005 and in 2006. Yet, the results of those tests were never disclosed to the Federal Highway Transportation Administration. In other words, Trinity knew that the changes to the ET-Plus railhead increased the risk of serious injury, and/or death, to motorists whose vehicles crashed into the railhead.
Trinity changed its railhead design to increase its bottom line, and continued to sell dangerous products without the approval of the Federal Highway Transportation Administration. Trinity claimed that the failure to disclose the change in its design was “an accident.” Trinity also claimed that it did not believe the modified design posed a safety hazard.
Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Lawsuits
A motorist whose car or truck was impaled by a guardrail may have grounds to bring a personal injury lawsuit against Trinity. At least one Pennsylvania victim has come forward to file a personal injury lawsuit. Rebecca Dryer, a single mom from Pennsylvania, suffered catastrophic injuries when her car impacted the ET-Plus railhead. Instead of deflecting the metal guardrail, the ET-Plus railhead caused the metal guardrail to rip through her car, and severed her right leg.
Sadly, Ms. Dryer’s story is one of many involving a dangerous guardrail system. Other Pennsylvania drivers have been injured or killed by faulty guardrail systems. Only months ago, a 24 year old Pennsylvania man was killed when he drifted off the road, and struck a guardrail, impaling the front end of his pickup truck. Luckily, his three year old toddler survived the accident.
Now that the defect has been uncovered, victims (and victims’ families) are beginning to connect the dots. Presumably, additional victims will come forward, as the defectively designed ET-Plus products have shipped across the United States, and are in use on nearly all states’ highway guardrails.
Investigating Guardrail Accidents
Trinity’s profit motive has turned a highway safety device into an unsafe and defective product. A guardrail system should act as a cushion, but the ET-Plus turned a pillow into a sword. Some state governments have become proactive, and are banning the use of ET-Plus railheads on their highways because of their dangerous design. Until then, ET-Plus railheads will remain on our highways.
New York Times: As Safety Concerns Grow, More States Ban Use of a Guardrail Unit
If you, or a loved one, have experienced the physical, financial, and emotional stress associated with a lost limb, paralysis, brain injury, or death, resulting from a guardrail accident, you should contact an attorney to learn if your injuries were caused by negligence or carelessness. Attorney consultations are free, confidential, and do not require you to file a lawsuit.
Big corporations who cut corners to increase their profits do not suffer through injuries with you, and your family. A defendant corporation is not going to pay your medical bills, cover your lost wages, or pay for your home modifications. A personal injury lawyer can help hold a greedy, profit-driven guardrail company accountable for its actions.