When it comes to liability for personal injury, wrongful death and survival actions, under some circumstances it is not only individuals and companies that can be held accountable but also the state of California itself. This potential liability exposure is the subject of an ongoing review by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) of guardrails that have been installed in this state which have been found to be potentially defective in another state.
Information available from the other state’s testing indicates that the guardrails in question may not collapse or “crumble” on impact from a vehicle striking them on the ends. Instead, in some tests the guardrails held up to the impact to the degree that they became “spears” -- penetrating into the car itself and causing injuries and deaths. Claims against the manufacturer of the guardrails have been initiated in multiple states as a result.
Although the guardrail manufacturer claims that its product complies with federal standards, claimants against the company have argued that the federal standards may not be sufficient to avoid the identified possibility of the guardrail penetrating a vehicle and possibly impaling the car’s occupants. Others have gone so far as to accuse the manufacturer of fraudulently concealing problems with the design of the guardrails, and one federal court has even held the company liable to the federal government for more than $600 million based on such claims of fraud.
Caltrans has for now suspended any further installation of the suspect guardrails, but has not gone as far as other states yet in removing and replacing them.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident with a guardrail that may not have performed correctly -- and which resulted in property damage, injury, or even the death of one or more of the car’s occupants -- you may want to consult with a personal injury attorney to see if you may have a claim for compensation.
Source: NBC San Diego, “Controversial Guardrail Systems on Freeways, Including California's, Removed in Virginia,” JW August, Dec. 17, 2015