When Trinity Industries agreed to pay $175 million for fraudulently selling a dangerous guardrail, few anticipated the far-reaching affects it would have on traffic safety nationwide. More than 30 states have banned installation of Trinity’s defective guardrails and some have file legal actions. Our team of auto accident attorneys explains the types of injuries these guardrails are causing.
This issue began in 2005, when Trinity redesigned one of its guardrail systems called the ET-Plus. The company shortened the rail heads by about an inch without notifying the Federal Highway Administration, which buys the ET-Plus for national highways. The rail head is the flat piece of steel at the front of the guardrail, a critical part of the system.
Any changes to guardrail systems must be submitted to the government immediately for approval. More than six years after the changes, in 2011, a whistleblower discovered the design modifications and filed a fraud case on behalf of the federal government.
When states decide which highway equipment to install they turn to guidelines issues by the federal government, which reimburses states for installing the products they recommend. That is how a fraud lawsuit could be filed against Trinity: the government recommended Trinity’s guardrails and reimbursed states that purchased them, because they were believed to be safe. Trinity is charged with fraud for falsely claiming their redesigned products were safe and costing the government millions in reimbursement payments.
According to the federal lawsuit, the redesign rendered the ET-Plus guardrails ineffective. Instead of buffering a car when it crashed against the guardrail, it would malfunction and pierce through the vehicle like a spear, potentially impaling occupants. The jury found Trinity liable for fraud and awarded the government $175 million, which will triple to $575 million for false reimbursements.
Shortening the guardrail piece saved the company $2 per rail head.
The number death and injury lawsuits against Trinity are grows every day.
Several states have taken proactive measures to make rid their highways of Trinity’s guardrails. Virginia banned the guardrails entirely in October 2014 and is currently removing all ET-Plus systems from its roads, replacing them with non-Trinity products. Virginia is also the first state to file legal action against Trinity.
Anticipating further legal action by state, Trinity has launched an aggressive lobbying campaign with state attorney generals. It is also donating to attorney general political causes, quickly becoming one of the country’s top donors. Congress has asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a formal investigation into the Federal Highway Administration over how it handled the initial ET-Plus claims.
Countless drivers and occupants have been seriously injured and killed by these defective guardrails. When vehicles crash into the defective guardrails the steel impales through doors and into occupants, causing gruesome and life-threatening injuries.
The auto accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are currently accepting cases of serious injury or death from Trinity guardrail crashes. If you or someone you love was hurt by one of these defective guardrails contact our firm immediately. We provide free case reviews and accept clients nationwide. We have our own team of legal investigators who can determine if a Trinity guardrail was involved in your accident, so even those who are unsure still may have a claim.