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State DOT Agency Bills Deceased Teen for Guardrail Damaged in Fatal Crash

Monday, May 15, 2017By Richard Alexander

When Steve Eimers received a letter from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, four months after the tragic death of his daughter in a highway accident, he did not think much of it. He assumed the TDOT wanted to complete some formalities relating to the incident and had sent a letter to tell him about it.

But when he read the contents of the letter, he was shocked. Inside was a bill for $3,000 from the TDOT, ostensibly for replacing the guardrail system that had been damaged in his daughter's fatal accident.

Steve recounts that he was so surprised and shocked at receiving the bill that a page from the letter slipped from his hand and dropped to the floor. Then and there he decided he was not going to pay the bill and would fight the TDOT on the matter. He also recollects thinking, "first they kill my daughter and then they bill me for it— the audacity of it all." Here is how the incident transpired.

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Eimers had been invited to a costume party. After the party, it was too late to go back home, so she stayed at a friend's place. The next day, she and a friend started the long drive back home in Hanna’s father's 2000 Volvo S80.

According to the Highway Patrol, Hannah lost control of the car and it slid off the road, striking the end terminal of the guardrail. The terminal is supposed to crumple when a vehicle hits it. But on that fateful day, it did not—with devastating consequences.

The Highway Patrol also said that Hannah tried to swerve the car away from the guardrail, but it only worsened the situation. The guardrail tail pierced the door on the driver's side, hitting Hannah in the head and body. The impact of the crash was so great that it threw Hannah into the back seat. She died instantly.

As Steve later found out, the TDOT had disqualified the guardrail component at issue from its list of approved products just days before the accident. However, it had not begun replacing the terminals, hundreds of which still pepper the state's highways.

Steve is convinced that his daughter would not have died if the TDOT had replaced the guardrails. It is another matter that the TDOT later decided to remove the guardrails completely from places where the speed limits were more than 45 mph. However, the decision came too late for Hannah and her family. Hannah's father will have to live with the tragedy for the rest of his life.

The TDOT eventually apologized to Steve for sending the letter, blaming it on a "processing error." So, as it turns out, Steve won't have to pay the $3,000 bill, but it is little consolation for the death of his daughter. Steve has since been invited to testify before a House hearing on the guardrails. He is also expecting to meet the state's Governor and speak to him about it.

Steve says that Hannah was a gifted person. She taught herself to play the piano and the guitar and had also learned a number of languages. But none of that matters now because she is gone, leaving Steve and his family to pick up the pieces. Steve only prays that no one else must go through the pain he and his family have gone through.

You can rely on the San Francisco personal injury attorneys at Alexander Law Group, LLP to guide you through the difficult time that follows a serious accident. We are here for our clients and will passionately seek appropriate compensation for you as the result of your injuries or those of your loved ones. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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