The U.S. government is asking for information as it investigates a guardrail
system made by Texas-based Trinity Industries which may be linked to injuries
and deaths in
car accidents that have occurred across the country.
According to a recent announcement on the
Federal Register, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is seeking this information
as part of "a data-driven determination regarding the performance
of the ET-Plus" and a review of the agency's "existing processes
for assessing the safety of roadside safety hardware to determine whether
we need to change them."
As the announcement notes, a jury in a federal court in Texas issued a
verdict in October finding that Trinity made "a false or fraudulent
claim to FHWA when it sought the eligibility determination for the ET-Plus."
According to the
New York Times, the jury found that Trinity had made a design change to the ET-Plus without
informing the FHWA. According to allegations in the lawsuit, which was
brought by a whistleblower under the federal False Claims Act, the modifications
caused the guardrail to malfunction upon impact, impaling vehicles and,
in some cases, injuring or amputating vehicle occupants.
The jury awarded $175 million to the whistleblower, which will be ultimately
tripled to a $525 million award, according to the Times.
Guardrail Design Change May Have Raised Injury Risks
According to a
Bloomberg report, Trinity shortened the ET-Plus guardrail head's "guide
channel" from its approved 5-inch dimension to 4 inches in 2005.
The company said it inadvertently omitted information about the modifications
to the government.
Some safety experts contend that those changes made the guardrail system
prone to locking up instead of crumpling to absorb the impact of a collision.
A study from the University of Alabama examined the safety of the ET-Plus
and found that it was four times more likely to kill someone compared
to the earlier Trinity model called the ET- 2000,
States across the country have issued moratoriums on installation of the
ET-Plus pending the results of more crash tests involving the guardrails,
which may be completed in late January.
Local 6 News reports, Florida was among the last states in the country to join the
ban on using the Trinity guardrails.
According to the news station, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
records show that its inventory has 1,678 ET-Plus guardrails with the
controversial four-inch guide channel, including around 200 in central Florida.
The manufacturer maintains that the end terminals are safe and that the
upcoming round of tests will prove it.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident involving
a guardrail in Florida, it is possible that the ET-Plus could have been
a contributing factor. It is important to have your case thoroughly investigated.
The Maher Law Firm can assist you. We have a history of standing up for
the rights of accident victims and injured consumers, including playing
a lead role in Florida's landmark product liability lawsuit against
the tobacco industry in which we helped to construct a $25 billion settlement.
Simply call or
contact us online today.