The family of a young Marine killed in a car accident is pushing Maryland officials to remove the type of guardrail they claim was a factor in his death. Washington-Baltimore NBC News Channel 4 reported in a March 23, 2018 article that the victim’s mother did some research after the incident, finding that at least seven other people were killed after crashing into X-LITE guardrail end pieces. There are five lawsuits against the manufacturer, claiming that the rail’s defective design is to blame because the metal impales the vehicle rather than deflecting it away from a hazard. Currently, 10 US states are in the process of replacing the guardrails due to safety concerns, but Maryland officials do not intend to make any changes. Therefore, more than 900 of the X-LITE guardrails will remain on the road, presenting a severe risk of auto accidents for drivers.
How Guardrails Work
Road construction crews place guardrails strategically along roadways to protect motorists from careening into a ditch or waterway, off a cliff, into a bridge, or other hazard. The intent is for this safety installation to absorb energy from a car accident and force the vehicle to slide along the length of the rail. This design works well when a car crashes into the middle of a guardrail, but there are issues when a vehicle impacts the end terminal.
Manufacturers of guardrails, including the makers of X-LITE guardrails, attempted to rectify this problem by installing an end cap. However, at least one study has found that this installation is up to four times more likely to be a factor in a fatal crash.
Claims of Defective Design
In lawsuits against manufacturers, plaintiffs claim that many of the end terminal caps do not work as intended. Instead of absorbing the energy of the vehicle upon impact, the force is transferred to the guardrail, turning it into a deadly metal spear. The guardrail pierces the vehicle and can cause serious injury or death to the occupants inside.
Injuries in Guardrail Car Crashes
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that there were 118 people killed due to guardrail accidents in 2016. In the worst auto accidents involving guardrails and their end terminal caps, victims are killed when the metal impales the body or head.
Still, a person who survives this type of collision may sustain catastrophic injuries, especially the feet and legs which are closer to the guardrail height. Common types of injuries include:
- Amputation of extremities;
- Nerve injuries;
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI); and,
- Injuries to the neck, spine and back.
Occupants of cars are more likely to be injured by guardrail end terminals as compared to those riding in light trucks, pickups, semis, or sport utility vehicles.
If you were injured or a loved one died as a result of a collision with a guardrail end terminal, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your losses. The key to succeeding on a claim is retaining an experienced attorney to represent you. For more information on guardrail accidents in Maryland, please contact the offices of Baltimore County, MD Attorney Michael A. Freedman. We can schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
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