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If you’re driving down the highway you will most likely see a guardrail on one or both sides of the road. It can give you a sense of security, perhaps thinking that it will keep you from plummeting off the side of a hill. It is sort of a mental barrier between you and any mishap.

Now, according to an article in Bloomberg, a Virginia man filed a lawsuit in 2012 against Trinity Highway Products LLC and its owner Trinity Industries Inc. Joshua Harman claims the company allegedly made changes to its guardrail designs, without getting permission from federal authorities. Harman says these designs have made guardrails into “potentially deadly hazards.”

Harman said the company made changes to its “Trinity ET-Plus” which is found at the end of a guardrail, marked with black and yellow stripes. It’s supposed to act as a shock absorber, but Harman said design changes have made it into a “giant shiv.”

He cites several serious accidents, including one in North Carolina where a man allegedly lost his legs due to an accident that involved an ET-Plus design.

According to the article, Harman started his own business with his brother, installing guardrails. ABC10 News reported he apparently learned about the design changes when he reproduced the Trinity guardrail and saw that it didn’t meet federal approval requirements. One of his companies was sued by Trinity for patent infringement.

The current suit Harman is bringing against Trinity is expected to go before a judge in July 2014. Trinity is arguing that it did get federal approval for its guardrail designs.

How Guardrails are used

An article in the Register-Herald in August 2013 discussed the use of guardrails on the road, and why they are placed in certain spots. According to the West Virginia Division of Highways, guardrails are intended to guide you as you drive along the road, not serve as barriers for accidents.

The manager of District 10 told the Register-Herald, “You have to determine if a guardrail would actually make an area safer or just make accidents in the area worse.”

He also said that the placement of guardrails is usually decided by traffic studies or multiple requests from drivers. This typically happens on well-populated roads, rather than in areas with hills and mountains.

Regardless of whether or not there is a guardrail on the stretch of road you travel along, make sure that you maintain the speed limit and stay aware of your surroundings. Your driving habits can ensure your safety. Guardrails may give you a sense of security, but they might not keep you from getting injured in an accident. If you are injured, a personal injury attorney can help you get compensated for any medical expenses you may incur due to the accident.

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