N.C. among minority of states continuing to install deadly guardrails on state highways

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What if a loved one dies from the injuries sustained in a serious accident while the case is pending?”


State officials have rebuffed calls to stop installing guardrails that activists say have caused dozens of deaths and injuries in accidents across the United States. California became the 41st state to ban the guardrails this week after a Texas jury levied a mammoth fraud verdict against the company that makes the guardrails.

Guardrails Charlotte Injury Lawyer North Carolina Wrongful Death AttorneyThe North Carolina Department of Transportation is aware of safety concerns raised about the ET-Plus end terminals, but the agency said it is leaving the decision of whether to pull the terminals from state highways to federal officials.

NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said his department has not seen any evidence of the end terminals’ danger, despite its awareness of “a couple of incidents.”

On Wednesday, federal regulators approved new safety testing of the end terminals. The NCDOT said it will await the results of new safety testing before making a decision on removing the terminals.

Even if the agency does decide to remove ET-Plus end terminals that have already been installed, it has not kept a database of the locations of the terminals. The state has installed different types of guardrails in different locations throughout the state, and the NCDOT has not kept track of which guardrails are where.

The Federal Highway Administration told WBTV that highway agencies such as the NCDOT “should know precisely what has been incorporated into its roadway/roadside infrastructure and be able to monitor the performance of individual components of its highway system.”

California joined other states that have banned the guardrails after a federal jury concluded that the end terminals’ manufacturer—Dallas, Texas-based Trinity Industries—defrauded the government by failing to disclose changes it made to the guardrail design. The design changes saved the company $2 per guardrail end terminal, but those $2 savings are alleged to have led to the deaths of dozens of drivers.

One of those was 24-year-old Darryl Blackmon, who investigators believe fell asleep at the wheel of his vehicle and crashed into a guardrail on November 1. Blackmon died of injuries he sustained in the crash.

An investigation by ABC7News into Blackmon’s death led investigators to a California warehouse, where they uncovered the ET-Plus “head” or guardrail end piece involved in the crash. Josh Harman, a guardrail manufacturer who sued Trinity Industries, said that the end piece was “responsible for the death of that boy, there’s no question.”

Harman said during an accident, the force of a car is supposed to push the end terminal down the guardrail, flattening the “W” shaped piece into a smooth ribbon of steel that slows the car. Instead, the faulty ET-Plus end pieces “lock up… gouge…” buckle over, knuckle up and rip off, “allowing the vehicle through,” Harman said.

Harman said Blackmon should have survived the crash.

The inventor of the ET-Plus design said Trinity altered the design without his input, evidently in an effort to boost profits. Trinity has denied that allegation.

Harman’s lawsuit led a Texas jury to impose $175 million in damages against Trinity last month, a figure that could be tripled by statute, meaning the company could face liability exceeding $1 billion.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional conduct, please do not hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment today. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAW Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.










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