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Federal Highway Administration Urged to Rescind Approval of X-LITE Guardrail Following Highway Deaths

By: Allan M. Siegel

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is being urged by safety advocates and victims’ families to rescind its regulatory approval of a faulty guardrail system that has been linked to at least 7 confirmed deaths in several states throughout the U.S. The guardrail in question is the Lindsay X-LITE guardrail, which contains an end terminal that has been found to malfunction upon high-speed impacts. Rather than buckling on impact and redistributing forces to propel vehicles back onto the road, these guardrails can actually penetrate vehicle cabins and cause devastating, fatal injuries.

Guardrail Lawsuits

X-LITE guardrail end terminals have been linked to at least 7 highway deaths in the past two years, including one death in Virginia. One of the most recent tragedies involved a 17-year-old Tennessee girl who was killed instantly when her vehicle was impaled by a guardrail after colliding into the median of a local interstate. In that case, the guardrails had just recently been removed from the state’s qualified-products list by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. However, a project to remove and replace the faulty guardrails had not yet been started.

Here are some of the facts about the faulty guardrails and efforts being made to address the hazards they create:

  • The Lindsay Transportation Solutions’ X-LITE guardrail end terminal has been linked to seven deaths in six crashes in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia. State officials and experts have confirmed that the end terminal failed to function properly in at least three of those crashes. It is still unknown whether the guardrails performed correctly in two of the remaining crashes.
  • Despite connections between its guardrail end terminals and numerous deaths and injuries, Lindsay has maintained that its products have been approved for public use by the Federal Highway Administration after passing federal crash tests. However, it was discovered that the crash tests were performed at a lab owned by Lindsay Transportation Solutions.
  • Due to the conflict of interest, advocates argue that there was a severe lack of oversight by state and federal regulators.
  • Advocates, families, and legislators are asking for the FHA to rescind approval of X-LITE guardrail end terminals pending further investigation of possible defects by the FHA.
  • Lawmakers in states across the country, including Tennessee, have already initiated efforts to remove the faulty guardrails from roadways with higher speed limits and replace them with safer systems.

Defective guardrails are not new to American roads and highways. In fact, one guardrail system – the Trinity Industries ET-Plus guardrail – was recently linked to a number of injuries and deaths due dangerous design defects. In a 2015 whistleblower case, Trinity Industries was ordered to pay $663 million in penalties for defrauding the U.S. government.

Cases like the ET-Plus guardrail lawsuit make it clear that public safety should always be the top priority for product manufacturers, especially those that manufacture critical components of our roads and highways. As advocates work to raise awareness about X-LITE guardrails and the fact that it received federal approval based on tests performed in a lab owned by its manufacturer, it will soon be seen whether the company will be held liable for its failures to adequately test its products.

In addition to facing potential civil penalties, Lindsay Transportation Industries will certainly face lawsuits from victims and families who have been harmed or killed in crashes in which its guardrail end terminal failed to function as it should have. These lawsuits are based on product liability laws, which can hold product manufacturers accountable for injuries and deaths caused by defectively designed, manufactured, and marketed products.

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is closely following this case, and is offering our support and representation to victims who have been injured or lost loved ones in crashes involving collisions with guardrails. If you would like to discuss a potential case and whether you may be entitled to compensation, our team is readily available to help. Our personal injury lawyers serve clients throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and offer free and confidential consultations. Contact us today.