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When guardrails fail, lives can be lost

You may not realize it but there are a number of elements present in our roadways that make them safer. Everything from a roadway's design to its surface helps reduce hazardous conditions that could otherwise lead to an accident. But if any of these elements fail, instead of preventing accidents, they could be the reason for them.

Take for example the standard guardrail you see on nearly every roadway across the country, including here in West Virginia. Guardrail rail design typically has one goal in mind: to slow a vehicle after a collision so as to minimize injuries to passengers. But when a guardrail's design is flawed in some way, the adverse may occur and serious or even fatal injuries can take place.

This was the case for one particular guardrail design manufactured by a company called Trinity Industries Inc. Contracted by the federal government, Trinity installed its guardrail design on roadways all over the nation. But it wasn't until after a series of accidents in which the guardrails acted like spears, impaling passengers, that a fatal design flaw was revealed.

As some of our Charleston readers may have heard, a federal judge recently fined Trinity $663 million for its faulty guardrail design and for not disclosing the possibly fatal flaw to the U.S. government. Trinity intends on appealing this decision.

Getting compensation after a crash

When elements of a roadway fail, accidents can occur. And when they do, accident victims and their family members may be left wondering whether they are owed compensation and from whom. As this case may reveal, it is possible to hold the maker of a roadway element accountable after an accident through civil litigation.

Just like personal injury claims against individual drivers though, claims against businesses or other organizations need to include evidence that supports a claim of negligence. This can be challenging if you're not familiar with tort law, which is why you may need to seek help from a lawyer before filing a claim.

Source: The Insurance Journal, "Judge Fines Texas Guardrail Maker $663M over Design Changes," David Koenig and Jamie Stengle, June 11, 2015

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