Understanding Underrides and the Dangers Truck Accidents Pose

Truck collisions are by far the worst type of traffic accident you can suffer. The weight and size of commercial big rigs create a much broader risk for impact and crush injuries.

The height of the trailer is also a significant and deadly factor, although rarely discussed. As a consequence of how high off the ground trailers sit, when an automobile rear-ends a truck, instead of absorbing the impact, the front end of the car slides under the trailer. As a result, the bottom edge of the trailer sheers off the vulnerable windshield and often crushes the frame of the car, putting passengers inside at risk as the car folds in on top them. These types of accidents, known as underride collisions, are the most deadly types of truck accidents, accounting for 70 percent of truck accident fatalities.

The Underriding Causes

Underride accidents aren’t limited to rear-end collisions. When part or all of the passenger vehicle slides or becomes wedged beneath the truck—whether it’s the front, rear, or side—it is considered an underride collision. Often, the upper part of the passenger compartment collapses inward as the vehicle slides under the truck, which can result in serious and loss of life. Traumatic head injuries, and even decapitation, are not unusual.

These accidents, especially those involving rear-end crashes, often occur as a result of:

  • Poor visibility. Night blindness, inclement weather, and improper lighting can cause a trailer to be hard to see. If a driver can’t see the trailer, he can’t adjust his speed to avoid a collision. Improper reflective gear on the truck can also contribute to this type of crash.
  • Poor truck brake maintenance. Malfunctioning brake lights on the trailer can prevent a car driver who is following the truck from noticing when the truck slows down or stops, increasing his risk of slamming into the trailer.
  • Poor underside guards. In many cases, a truck will be not equipped with adequate safety guards to prevent vehicles from becoming lodged underneath the truck. Either the truck doesn’t have guards at all—rear guards are mandatory for most large trucks in the United States, but front and side guards are not—or the guards that are on the truck are not sturdy enough to keep the smaller vehicle from sliding under. Further, research has shown that even the sturdiest rear guards often are insufficient to prevent underride accidents that occur at a high rate of speed or those that involve the passenger vehicle hitting the trailer near either corner of the back end.
  • Poor driving skills. Reckless driving, driver negligence, and distracted driving can be significant factors for underride collisions as well. Following too closely, becoming distracted, or improper passing techniques can all cause a driver to lose control of his vehicle and dangerously veer into and under a truck.

No matter what causes an underride accident, the outcome is generally not good for those in the passenger vehicle.

Your Risk Factors

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has cited estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that more than 400 people die each year as the result of underride accidents. The NHTSA further estimates that more than 5,000 occupants of passenger vehicles are severely injured in this type of crash annually.

Freeing Yourself From the Load of an Accident

If you or a loved one has become seriously injured in an underride accident, you may be entitled to significant compensation. Whether the driver’s actions caused the collision, the truck’s underride guard was not up to standards, or the truck itself was poorly maintained, if negligence was involved you may have a claim.

Call the law office of experienced personal injury attorney Steve Lee today at 800-232-3711 to arrange a free consultation. Or, fill out the Quick Contact form and we’ll be in touch with you promptly. Steve Lee is well-versed in truck accident law and will be able to help you establish fault and pursue a reasonable recovery of damages. Call now to see how we can help pull you out from under the weight of an underride accident.

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