Truck underride accidents occur when a small vehicle crashes into the back or sides of the cargo area of a large truck, typically an 18-wheeler. Underride accidents remain one of the most dangerous types of collisions you can possibly have. According to the latest data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, an organization that collects data on automobile accidents, 3,436 deaths were linked to underride accidents in 2019.
Of those deaths, an overwhelming 67 percent were drivers of small vehicles, 16 percent were drivers of a large truck and 17 percent were drivers of other vehicles such as motorcycles and bicycles.
What Happens in A Truck Underride Accident?
In an underride accident, a passenger vehicle hits the cargo area of a larger truck, usually from the rear or sides. A vehicle’s front end is designed to absorb impacts as the result of a crash. However, because the cargo area of most large trucks is elevated high off the ground, smaller vehicles can easily slide underneath the cargo area, and the resulting collision will instead tear through the passenger vehicle’s roof and windshield, entering the passenger area. The results are disastrous. Not only is the passenger vehicle rendered completely unsafe to drive at this point, the occupants inside will often sustain severe injuries. In many cases, the victims may die immediately at the scene or later from injuries sustained in the accident.
How Are Survivors of Truck Underride Accidents Affected?
The injuries sustained can irrevocably change survivors’ lives. In the best case scenario, survivors may suffer some broken bones, but many survivors end up with severe, life-altering injuries such as paralysis, brain damage and severe disfigurement. Some survivors’ injuries are so severe that they’re left unable to care for themselves without the aid of a friend or family member.
When And How Do Truck Underride Accidents Happen?
Underride collisions can happen at any time, but most often happen at night. The most common causes of underride collisions are:
- Faulty underride guards – Federal and state laws require you to maintain underride guards on the rear of your truck. Over time, the structural integrity of these guards can deteriorate, making them more brittle. In the event of a crash, a seriously neglected underride guard will simply snap or shatter, allowing the car to slide under the cargo area. Your company is responsible for keeping your truck’s safety features in good working order.
- Sudden stops or U-turns – Sometimes truck drivers will make sudden stops or U-turns. U-turns are illegal because they can cause accidents. Don’t be the trucker that makes a U-turn because you missed your turn. Proceed to the next exit, and then get back on the other side of the freeway when it’s safe to do so.
- Icy or rainy roads – Rain and ice make vehicles more difficult to control at normal speeds. Because large trucks are heavier and often carry heavy cargo, they are much more susceptible to loss of control on icy or wet roads than normal passenger vehicles. You will want to maintain extra distance between your vehicle and a large truck in addition to reducing your speed so that you can maintain control in any unsafe road conditions.
- Dangerous or distracted driving – Reckless driving also plays a role in causing underride crashes. As a truck driver, you are responsible for remaining vigilant of what’s going on around you.
As a driver of a passenger vehicle, you should never follow a large truck too closely. A good rule of thumb is to maintain a distance of 400 to 500 feet. Keep an eye on the taillights of large vehicles. Aside from that, you should always follow the rules of the road. You have just as much responsibility to drive safely as large trucks do.
If you are involved in an underride accident that was not your fault, or your loved ones have died as a result of one, you have the right to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in which you may receive damages covering the cost of repairing your vehicle and the medical bills or funeral expenses you incur. The laws surrounding trucking lawsuits are complex for those who do not know the law.
A good truck accident attorney can help you navigate through the legal system and paperwork and can also give legal advice where necessary. Contact DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC to learn more and find out if you can file a potential claim.