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Lawsuits: Defective highway guardrails caused horrific injuries

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP April 16, 2019

Two recent personal injury lawsuits accuse a national manufacturer of interstate guardrails of negligence. Two accidents occurred in which the guardrails failed to “telescope” into one another as designed. Instead, the pieces separated and speared into the crashed vehicles, killing one woman and causing another to suffer a leg amputation.

The Lindsay X-LITE guardrail system has been blamed for at least 11 deaths nationwide. These two lawsuits are only the latest; at least three have been filed previously. Moreover, at least one state will be removing and replacing the guardrails, saying they “did not perform as they were intended to” during two crashes and contributed to three deaths.

These types of guardrail systems are on highways and interstates across the nation. When performing as intended, the pieces “telescope,” or fold into and behind one another upon impact by a crashed vehicle. This not only absorbs some of the crash impact but also prevents the pieces from plunging into the body of the crashed vehicle.

In the two accidents that initiated the latest lawsuits, this telescoping did not occur. Instead, pieces of guardrail punctured the vehicles and severely injured their occupants. In one case, a passenger suffered “immediate, horrible, and agonizing pain, severe damage to her internal organs, internal bleeding” before dying of her injuries. In the other, a driver suffered injuries so severe that her left leg had to be amputated.

The lawsuits accuse several companies of negligence or product liability. First Lindsay Corporation, related company Valmont Industries and their subsidiaries are accused of failing to design the guardrails properly and also of failing to disclose “known problems and defects.”

Moreover, the lawsuits claim that companies installing the guardrail systems did not do so properly.

This may be due to unclear installation instructions, as was claimed in a letter from the Tennessee Transportation commissioner to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). That letter was in explanation of Tennessee’s decision to remove and replace all X-LITE guardrails in that state. The commissioner stated that Lindsay Corporation was unable to resolve the problem with the unclear instructions. The guardrails are associated with at least three Tennessee fatalities.

In addition to Tennessee, fatal accidents involving X-LITE guardrails have been reported in South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Missouri and New Hampshire. Several states besides Tennessee have begun replacing the guardrails.

If you have been involved in a crash and a guardrail system failed, we recommend discussing your case with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can investigate the situation and determine if a faulty guardrail system made the situation worse.