When properly designed and installed, guardrails can prevent injuries and save lives. By absorbing some of the impact when an accident occurs, highway guardrails can dramatically lessen the force on vehicle occupants, reducing the likelihood that serious or deadly injuries will result from the collision. Unfortunately, some guardrail manufacturers have side-stepped safety regulations that were designed to ensure consumer safety, making unauthorized changes to classic, tried-and-true guardrail designs in order to save money. These changes have cut costs for manufacturers – but at terrible expense to innocent people throughout Pennsylvania and the U.S.
If you or someone you love was injured in a defective guardrail accident in Pennsylvania, you should consult with an experienced injury lawyer to review your family’s legal options. Negligent guardrail manufacturers may be liable for the losses that you have suffered due to your accident, including your medical treatments, property damage, pain and suffering, lost income, and other damages related to the crash. For 24/7 legal help filing a defective guardrail lawsuit in Pennsylvania, contact the Reiff Law Firm online, or call our law offices at (215) 246-9000. We can review your claim in a free consultation and help you determine what steps you may wish to take next.
How Do Defective Trinity Guardrails Cause Injuries?
Thousands of guardrails are installed along the shoulders of highways throughout the U.S. and the state of Pennsylvania. In fact, it is nearly impossible to drive anywhere without passing guardrails on the way to your destination. While not all guardrails are defective, their ubiquity means that dangers can be hidden almost anywhere. But how and why do defective guardrails cause injuries to motorists?
The purpose of a guardrail is to lessen the force of impact during a collision, thus reducing the risk of serious injury or death to the vehicle occupants. To achieve this purpose, guardrails are normally designed so that their components will bend, crumple, and give way upon impact with vehicles, gradually slowing the car’s path with minimal injury to the driver and passengers.
The problem is that some guardrails manufactured by the company Trinity Industries have been redesigned in such a way that their normal function is altered, making these structures fundamentally unsafe. Unlike regular guardrails, which crumple during a collision, these defective Trinity guardrails have terminals that remain rigid, creating a risk of impalement, amputation, or other serious injury for vehicle occupants in the event of impact. At least nine personal injury lawsuits have been filed over the past several years, with victims suffering injuries ranging from leg amputation to traumatic brain injury (TBI) to fatal impalement.
Who Can You Sue for Guardrail Injuries in Pennsylvania?
Various parties may be liable for injuries resulting from a defective guardrail accident in Philadelphia, including the manufacturer who produced the guardrail which injured you, and the business or organization that was responsible for installing and maintaining the guardrail to proper specifications. Government entities, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), may also be held partially responsible, depending on their role in negligently causing or contributing to the accident.
In a recent case, Cagey v. Commonwealth (2017), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the state of Pennsylvania could potentially be liable for guardrail injuries in cases where guardrails are improperly designed. The Court found that, though the state was not responsible for installing the guardrails, it was responsible for ensuring that they were in reasonably safe condition once installed. As the Court’s opinion noted, “When PennDOT installs a guardrail, sovereign immunity is waived if the agency’s negligent installation and design creates a dangerous condition” for drivers and their passengers.
Sovereign immunity – a complex legal issue which often arises in cases against government organizations – protects government entities from certain types of lawsuits. However, in Cagey the Court found that Pennsylvania may give up (“waive”) sovereign immunity if its negligence created a hazard for motorists, like dangerous guardrails.
It may be possible to recover financial compensation, or “damages,” from various parties in a guardrail defect lawsuit. Compensation may be available for medical treatment you required because of the accident, pain and suffering caused by your injuries, property damage you might have sustained in the accident (such as damage to your vehicle), income you have lost due to your injuries, and other damages.
Philadelphia Defective Guardrail Accident Lawyers
Defective guardrail litigation is highly complex, impacted by state and federal regulations involving insurance coverage, accident liability, engineering and safety standards, sovereign immunity, and many other issues. If you were injured in a guardrail accident in Pennsylvania, make sure you obtain legal guidance from an experienced, aggressive accident attorney who understands how to approach your case strategically and effectively.
To set up a free legal consultation concerning a guardrail accident claim, contact our law offices online today, or call the Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide you with the assistance you need.