Commercial semi-trucks have large wheels that sit higher off the ground than passenger cars. When an accident occurs, the smaller passenger car can go under the truck and get crushed. The National Safety Council reports that in 2016, 204 people died in crashes with large trucks that did not have adequate underride protection, and that this number is likely underreported.

How Truck Underride Accidents Happen

A car can slide under a truck in many different situations. This could happen, for example, if the truck stops short and the car behind it is unable to stop before going under the truck. It could also happen in a T-bone or sideswipe accident where there is no barrier or guard that prevents the car from going underneath the truck. Situations like this can be caused by:

  • Difficult weather conditions. Wet or icy roads can make it more difficult for a truck to stop safely. Other weather conditions, such as fog or heavy rain, can limit a trucker’s ability to see. This may cause a trucker to brake suddenly and a crash may occur.
  • Distracted driving. A distracted driver is, by definition, not concentrating on the road. Thus, a trucker may have to brake suddenly or may hit another vehicle which causes the passenger car behind him or to the side of him to collide with the truck.
  • Drowsy driving. Tired truckers create the same risks as distracted truckers and may cause serious crashes.
  • Bad brakes. If brakes or other truck parts are not appropriately maintained, the truck may not perform as the driver anticipated and a crash can result.

Other causes, such as drunk driving, may also result in truck underride crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

Underride Crash Injuries and Deaths

Underride accidents present unique risks for people in passenger vehicles. In a typical front-end crash, the car’s front bumper and hood collide with the other vehicle first and absorb some of the impact of the collision. However, in an underride crash, the front bumper and hood slide right under the truck and the first point of impact may be the front windshield and passenger compartment. The top of the car may be sheared off by the truck. The driver and passengers of the car may be crushed or tragically decapitated.

Federal Truck Underride Regulations

Rear underride and side underride guards can help prevent cars from sliding under large trucks and can minimize the impact of some of these serious accidents. Rear underride guards have been required on semi-trucks since 1952. In 1996, the federal rear underride guard regulations were strengthened to set a minimum required size and strength of the underride guards. In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed strengthening the regulations again to make sure that all underride guards prevent cars traveling up to 35 mph from going under trucks. However, as of 2018, no action has been taken on this proposal.

Unlike rear underride guards, there are currently no federal regulations requiring trucks to have side underride guards. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, have had side underride guard requirements for decades.

Since current truck underride regulations do not sufficiently prevent the injuries and fatalities that could result from some truck crashes, a group known as the “Road to Zero” coalition has been formed to try to get the federal government to act. Supporters of this coalition include the National Safety Council, MADD, AAA, and many others.

What to Do If You’re Hurt in a Truck Underride Accident

If your loved one has died in a truck underride wreck, or if you have been hurt in such an accident, it is important to understand your rights and to fight hard for your fair and just recovery. Our experienced truck accident lawyers will investigate what happened to you and gather evidence for your potential truck accident case. We will find out who was at fault for the crash and we will determine if the truck had proper underride guards in place at the time of the accident. Then we will fight hard for your fair and just recovery.

Please contact us today via this website or by phone to find out more about your rights and possible recovery. We would be pleased to meet with you and to offer you a free consultation so that you can get the information you need to make an informed decision about protecting your future.

Mark K. Gray
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Louisville attorney serving the seriously injured in Kentucky