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Posted on Friday, November 28th, 2014 at 4:46 pm    

A jury in Texas recently awarded the federal government $175,000,000 after finding highway guardrail maker Trinity Industries guilty of fraud under the Federal False Claims Act. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit centered around a design change to the rail head of the guardrail which change, according to some state regulators, could cause the guardrail system to fail thereby rendering it unsafe.

The rail head of the guardrail is the flat piece of steel at the front of the guardrail system. According to The Times article, the guardrail system works by collapsing when hit head-on, thereby absorbing the impact of a vehicle and guiding the railing out of its path. The rail head is supposed to slide along the guardrail itself pushing it to the side. However, according to some state officials, the redesigned rail head narrows the channel behind the rail head which can cause it to jam instead of sliding along the rail. And when this happens, the guardrail can pierce an on-coming vehicle, endangering the vehicle occupants.

Trinity apparently failed to disclose the design changes to the Federal Highway Administration for seven years, even though the law requires immediate reporting of such changes.

Trinity Industries has stated that it does not believe the guardrails pose a threat to safety and that the failure to disclose the design changes was merely accidental. The Times article notes that three states (Missouri, Massachusetts and Virginia) have banned purchases of the Trinity designed ET-Plus system, citing safety concerns. The Times article also states that internal documents revealed that the change to the rail head was only expected to save about $2.00 on every rail head.

Interestingly, this case was brought on behalf of the federal government by a competitor of Trinity Industries, who discovered the design change during litigation in 2011.

If you have been involved in an accident in Lancaster due to a defective product, a lawyer from the Law Office of Bill Pelhan may be able to help you hold its manufacturer accountable. Discuss your options in a free consultation by calling 717-392-6362.

Source: Guardrail maker Trinity Industries Liable for Fraud in Texas by Danielle Ivory and Aaron M. Kessler appearing in the New York Times on October 21, 2014.


Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2014 at 3:04 pm    

Once again we are rapidly approaching the time of year when snow and ice can make even our daily commute a challenge. A review of the internet reveals a number of websites offering helpful tips for safe driving in winter weather. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. AAA Tips found at

2. Click & Clack of Car Talk offer tips at

3. The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) Tips found at

4. Massachusetts Department of Transportation safe winter driving tips found at

We also recommend checking out our own blog article regarding safety around snow plows archived at January 2013.

In reviewing these sites, three things seem to jump out; namely, preparation, caution, and practice.

PREPERATION: This includes making sure that your car is ready for winter driving. For example, having your car inspected by your dealer or local garage to be sure such things as your tires, windshield wipers, lights, battery, heater and other important systems are in good working order before winter arrives. Additionally, everyone should prepare for the unexpected and real possibility of becoming stranded or stuck in the snow. Most of these sites offer valuable tips for what you should carry with you in your car during the winter season such as a flashlight, blankets, boots, water, etc.

CAUTION: All of the sites stress the need for using caution when driving in snowy or icy winter conditions. Especially the need to SLOW DOWN when driving in snow or ice and to allow plenty of extra time to get to your destination safely. Also, another important suggestion is to ask yourself whether or not it is really necessary to go out when the weather turns bad and the roadways become hazardous.

PRACTICE: Many of the sites suggested that inexperienced drivers practice driving in snowy conditions in a vacant lot under the direction and guidance of an experienced winter weather driver.

If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by another driver and are thinking about taking legal action in Lancaster, contact the Law Office of Bill Pelhan today at 717-392-6362 for the experienced legal assistance you need.


Posted on Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 at 2:57 pm    

According to a recent article in LNP, the number of crashes involving Amish buggies has actually gone down over the past decade. The article notes that this is true even while the number of Amish residing in Lancaster County has increased in this same period.

The article by P. J. Reilly states the downward trend in the numbers is largely due to better lighting, more education, and the efforts by the Pennsylvania State Department of Transportation to improve our highways.

The Amish Safety Committee gives significant credit to improvements in lighting which have made a big difference; namely LED lights which use less electricity, are brighter, and therefore allow more lighting. However, the Amish Committee also points out that increased use of reflective tape has been another significant factor in helping to make buggies more visible at nighttime.

Another significant factor according to the Amish Safety Committee is increased efforts to educate the Amish community in the safe operation of buggies on our highways. Lancaster County is divided into five districts and the Safety Committee reports that safety meetings have been well attended by the Amish community.

Another factor has been increased efforts by PennDOT to make our highways safer for Amish buggies as well as other motorists. For example, when the intersection of State Routes 372 and 222 at Buck was realigned, video cameras controlling the traffic signals were designed to detect buggies on shoulders so that the lights would change when a buggy approached the intersection. Other highway design changes used by PennDOT to help include widening the shoulder to allow buggies to travel safely on the shoulder without ever needing to enter the travel lane.

Even with all these improvements, officials still stress the importance of traveling at an appropriate speed and paying close attention when traveling our highways.

Source: Article appearing in the LNP entitled Buggy Crashes in County on the Decline by P. J. Reilly appearing on Monday, October 20, 2014.


Posted on Friday, November 14th, 2014 at 2:54 pm    

Per a recent article appearing in the Washington Post, NHTSA recently issued a recall notice for defective air bags manufactured by Takata Corp. and urged people whose cars are equipped with such air bags to take immediate action. According to the article by Ashley Halsey, III, at least four people have died when the inflator mechanism in the air bag ruptured spraying metal fragments at the passengers.

The recall covers some models manufactured by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan and General Motors.

It is estimated by safety experts that there are between 20 and 25 million cars in the United States alone that are equipped with the faulty air bags. For reasons still unclear to the automobile manufacturers and Takata, it appears that there has been an unusually high incidence of inflator failures in areas having a high absolute humidity such as the Gulf Coast.

NHTSA says information regarding which vehicles are being recalled can be found at

Source: NHSTS Issues Recall, Urgent Warning on Defective Air Bags by Ashley Halsey, III, appearing in The Washington Post on October 20, 2014. Also, NHSTA Warns Car Owners to Get Air Bags Fixed appearing at on October 21, 2014.


Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2014 at 6:47 pm    

According to an article by Christopher Jensen of the New York Times, NHTSA is investigating Ford vehicles for potential power steering failures. The investigation involves Ford Fusions and Lincoln MKZ sedans for the 2010 through 2012 model years and Mercury Milan sedans for the 2010 and 2011 years. NHTSA states that it has already received over 500 complaints from owners reporting sudden and unexpected power steering assist failures.

According to the Times article, Ford has already recalled about 3.9 million vehicles this year. And, two of the recalls in May were for sudden power steering assist failures. The vehicles involved in those recalls were Ford Escape and Mercury Mariners.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to the carelessness of another or due to the malfunction of a product, contact the Law Office of Bill Pelhan at 717-392-6362 for the advise and attention of an experienced
personal injury attorney.

Source: Ford Probed for Steering Problem by Christopher Jensen – New York Times; appearing in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era on Tuesday, October 7, 2014.