Many of the roads in Pennsylvania are back roads and highways. Many of these run through difficult terrain, including cliffs, streams, ponds, rivers, and drop-offs into forests and fields. These roads are often protected with guardrails that run along the side of the road. However, many times these guardrails do more harm than good.
If the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) installs faulty guardrails, guardrails with dangerous designs, or guardrails that are not strong enough to keep cars from running off the road, the state may be held liable for injuries these guardrails cause. If you or a loved one was injured by a car accident involving a dangerous or defective guardrail, talk to our Philadelphia defective guardrail accident lawyers today. The Philadelphia injury attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm offer free consultations on new cases. Call (215) 246-9000 today to schedule your consultation.
Injuries from Defective Guardrails in Pennsylvania
The purpose of a guardrail on the side of a road is to both pad the impact and prevent cars from running off the road in an accident. These railings are often installed when there are embankments or steep drops along the side of the highway or a bridge. Some guardrails are ineffective at keeping cars on the road, and cars may burst through the rail during a crash. Other times, the guardrails are too firm, and they stop cars too quickly. Instead of slowing them and padding the crash, the guardrail becomes a solid, stationary object the car crashes straight into.
Another serious problem comes from the design of the guardrail. In some cases, the end of the guardrail is embedded in cement, padded by water barrels, or curved down toward the ground to prevent injuries. Others are designed with ends that curve into a “boxing glove” shape in an attempt to pad collisions with the end of the railing. Unfortunately, some of these designs are extremely dangerous. When a car crashes into the end of the guardrail, the guardrail may puncture the window or body of the car and spear through the length of the car. This can cause death or serious injury to drivers and occupants.
Any car accident comes with a tremendous risk of injury. Some may be less serious than others, but unfortunately hundreds of Pennsylvanians are killed each year in car crashes. In some cases, dangerous or defective guardrails contribute to the injuries car accident victims face. Especially in cases where a guardrail spears through a car, drivers and passengers may suffer severe cuts or puncture wounds from the railing. In many instances, the victim may even be impaled by the guardrail. Without prompt emergency response and medical treatment, these kinds of wounds may be fatal or cause significant internal injuries.
Suing the Government for Defective Guardrails
Pennsylvania’s legal history shows that the courts have, historically, blocked lawsuits for guardrails. In the 2000 case Dean v. Department of Transportation, the PA Supreme Court blocked a car accident victim from suing PennDOT and the PA State Government for failing to erect a guardrail on the street. The plaintiff claimed that a guardrail would have prevented the accident from being as bad, but the court refused the claim. Instead, they ruled that the State had no duty to erect guardrails.
When suing for injuries, you usually use a theory of “negligence.” This requires showing that the defendant owed you a duty to keep you safe, but they breached that duty. If the duty led to injuries and other harms, you may be able to receive compensation from the negligent parties. Without a duty to erect guardrails, the courts could not hold the government liable for the injuries.
In 2018, the PA Supreme Court clarified the rules, declaring that a car accident victim can sue when the state erects defective or dangerous guardrails. In Cagey v. Commonwealth (2018), the PA Supreme Court held that when the state chooses to erect a guardrail, it is responsible if that guardrail turns out to be defective or dangerous.
This means that now, Pennsylvanians have a clear right to sue the government for defective guardrails. Any time a guardrail fails to do its job or increases the injuries in an accident, the victims may sue the state for injuries or death. The compensation from these lawsuits can help pay for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the economic effects of losing a loved one.
Pennsylvania Injury Lawyer for Defective and Deadly Guardrail Victims
Defective or dangerous guardrails, especially those with a “boxing glove” design, have no place on our roads. If you or a loved one was injured, of if a loved one was killed in an accident involving a dangerous guardrail on a Pennsylvania road, talk to an attorney today. The Reiff Law Firm’s Philadelphia guardrail defect lawyers offer free consultations on injury or wrongful death cases. For your free consultation, call our law offices today at (215) 246-9000.