• Is the X-LITE guardrail system hazardous during crashes?
  • March 7, 2018
  • A South Carolina woman was riding in an SUV driven by her husband when the vehicle went off the side of the road and hit a guardrail. Highway guardrails are meant to absorb the impact of a crash, keep the vehicle from going too far off the roadway, and perform another critical function. The pieces are supposed to "telescope," or fold into one another so that the long metal pieces do not cause additional danger.

    In this case, and in other cases in several states, the guardrails did not telescope. Instead, they acted like spears, thrusting through the vehicle and severely injuring vehicle occupants. In this case, pieces of the guardrail penetrated the passenger side all the way through the frame and backseat. According to one of the lawsuits, the South Carolina woman suffered "immediate, horrible, and agonizing pain, severe damage to her internal organs, internal bleeding" before she died of her injuries.

    Just a few months later, a similar crash occurred in Tennessee. In that case, the driver's injuries were so severe that her left leg had to be amputated, according to her lawsuit.

    Hers was not the first such crash in Tennessee, and several previous cases involved fatalities. More fatalities have been associated with non-telescoping guardrails in Texas, Missouri, Virginia and New Hampshire.

    The guardrails in these cases were all X-LITE guardrail systems manufactured by Lindsay Corporation, Valmont Industries and their subsidiaries. X-LITE systems are installed nationwide and account for a bit more than 1 percent of our nation's guardrail systems.

    At least the latest two lawsuits accuse the manufacturers of design defects and failure to disclose "known problems and defects." They also accuse companies tasked with installing the X-LITE systems of doing so improperly.

    The installers may not be largely at fault, however. In April 2017, the head of the Tennessee Department of Transportation wrote a letter to the Federal Highway Administration notifying the agency that it planned to remove and replace all X-LITE guardrails in the state. As a reason, he cited Lindsay's inability to resolve unclear installation instructions.

    According to a Federal Highway Administration survey on the X-LITE system, several other states have had problems:

    • In Arizona, installers reported difficulty constructing the X-LITE guardrails.

    • In Rhode Island, crews expressed reservations about X-LITE's quality.

    • In New Hampshire, an official recommended the guardrails only be used on roads with speed limits of 45 mph or less, even though X-LITE systems are approved for interstate use.

    There may well be other instances of X-LITE guardrail systems failing to telescope when struck by vehicles. If you have experienced a hazardous condition with a guardrail, we recommend you contact a personal injury attorney for an assessment of your case.