Lawyers in our firm are continuing to receive cases where motorists left the road and suffered catastrophic, and oftentimes fatal, injuries when the vehicle they were driving struck a defective guardrail system. Guardrail systems are supposed to redirect a car away from a dangerous area on the highway (often an embankment or a creek, for instance) and absorb the energy of the car striking it. In this way, guardrails are supposed to lessen the severity of an accident, if not mitigate it entirely. Guardrail systems should never increase the severity of an accident, but these defective guardrails are doing just that.
Based on investigations by our lawyers where occupants were killed or were seriously injured from guardrail systems, we have observed two major characteristics. The first common characteristic involves a poorly designed guardrail end terminal. End terminals are specially designed end sections of a guardrail system – usually existing on the approach end of the guardrail, and they are designed to absorb the energy of a car that strikes the approach end. In this way, the terminal end is supposed to slow the vehicle down and lessen the severity of an accident. However, a number of roads contain terminal end sections that are defective, one being the breakaway cable terminal. Breakaway cable terminals, which use a cable and a breakaway system to absorb car energy, often fail because the terminal design is too stiff.
Instead of absorbing the energy of a vehicle as the terminal end section should, Federal Government studies proved that the breakaway cable terminal actually penetrates into the passenger compartment, resulting in horrific injuries caused by the guardrail impaling the vehicle (and the occupants inside). Lawyers in our firm are currently litigating these cases. We currently represent one client who lost a leg when a breakaway cable terminal impaled her car like a shish kabob stick.
The second concern we have found involves poorly installed guardrail systems. Poor installation can take a number of forms. For instance, poor installation at splice points (the points where pieces of guardrail sections come together) can cause the guardrail system to break apart when it should hold and redirect the vehicle. If the installer fails to install a guardrail system using the proper height, the guardrail system could actually cause a vehicle to become airborne.
We have also observed situations where the support posts were improperly driven into asphalt. Guardrail posts along the guardrail system are supposed to have some flexibility and bend so they can absorb energy and redirect the vehicle away from a hazard. By driving the support posts into asphalt (oftentimes deeper than 1 ½ inches), the posts are not allowed to twist in the ground (which absorbs energy). Instead, the support posts can break off and cause splices in the guardrail system to fail. Where splices fail in this manner, we have observed situations where sections of the guardrail system impale the vehicle and kill occupants inside.
Our lawyers are investigating cases where vehicle occupants were severely injured or killed after striking a guardrail system. If you have any questions about these cases, contact Parker Miller, a lawyer in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel
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