An underride crash is a collision in which a passenger vehicle goes partially or completely underneath the trailer of a commercial truck. Such collisions are incredibly dangerous because in many cases, the entire roof of the smaller vehicle may be sheared off as the vehicle slides under the trailer. That may result in severe or fatal trauma to the head and neck of the vehicle’s occupants.
Commercial trucks in the United States are required to have rear underride guards specifically designed to prevent these types of accidents. Underride crashes still occur because some trucking companies fail to properly install underride guards on older trucks. Some underride guards are not sturdy enough and fail upon impact.
Have you suffered severe injuries or lost a loved one in an underride accident in the greater Indianapolis area? The Indianapolis personal injury attorneys at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC have been handling all kinds of truck accident cases since 1999.
What is an “Underride Accident?”
In crashes involving two automobiles, the vehicles usually collide squarely, allowing their crumple zones to absorb much of the impact and the airbags to protect the vehicle occupants.
But tractor-trailer trucks and semi-trailers stand higher off the ground than automobiles. The difference in height between a large truck and a car creates the danger that a car may get wedged underneath the back or side of a tractor-trailer in a collision. This is referred to as an underride accident.
Because a car’s hood can easily fit underneath a commercial trailer, the upper passenger compartment often sustains the brunt of the impact rather than the crumble zone. The roof of an automobile may be sheared off or the passenger compartment crushed in an underride collision. Underride crashes are some of the most devastating types of accidents on Indiana highways.
What is the Purpose of a Truck Underride Guard?
Truck underride guards are supposed to provide a barrier to keep smaller vehicles from sliding beneath the rear of the truck in the event of a collision.
Federal regulations require that all trailers and semitrailers manufactured on or after January 26, 1998, with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more be equipped with a rear underride guard that meets the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The requirements state that the horizontal member of each guard must have a vertical height of at least 100 millimeters (mm) at each point across the guard width. The guards must satisfy strength and energy absorption, guard strength, and guard energy absorption requirements.
Seven years after the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) identified serious shortcomings in the rear underride guards of most semi-trailers, the IIHS reported in 2018 that the eight largest North American manufacturers of semi-trailers had earned the IIHS TOUGHGUARD award after making rear guards capable of preventing underride collisions.
A group of lawmakers in Congress has introduced legislation to require underride guards on the sides and front of 18 wheelers as well as the back. On March 5, 2019, Tennessee Representative Steve Cohen and California Representative Mark DeSaulnier introduced House Resolution 1511 (HR 1511), known as the Stop Underrides Act. The same day, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Marco Rubio introduced the identical legislation in the U.S. Senate (S.665), with both bills requiring underride guards on the sides and fronts of commercial trucks.
The lawmakers said underride guards are a commonsense solution to protect automobile passengers and prevent them from being killed when a car collides with a truck. Advocacy groups including the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and the Truck Safety Coalition support the legislation.
The IIHS said in a 2015 report that 301 people died in collisions in which an automobile struck the side of a large truck. The IIHS said that rigid side underride guards could reduce the risk of injury in about three-quarters of side trailer accidents.
What are the Main Causes of Underride Accidents?
Underride crashes take three general forms:
- A front underride crash typically involves a trailer backing into and rolling over a vehicle.
- A rear underride crash involves a rear-end collision in which an automobile slides under the back of a trailer.
- A side underride crash occurs in a side-impact collision in which the smaller vehicle slides under the side of truck trailers.
There are many causes due to a wide range of contributing factors to underride accidents. Some of the most common causes of underride accidents include:
- Mechanical defects in the underride guard
- Inclement weather
- Driver fatigue
- Failure to maintain vehicle
- Failure to use underride guards
- Brake failure
- Driver distraction
- Failure to observe vehicles in the truck’s no-zones
- Failure to signal lane changes
- Driver error
- Drunk or drugged driving
- Driving too fast for conditions
Trucking companies and the manufacturer of the underride guard may bear responsibility when an underride guard on a truck fails. Other possible liable parties in a truck accident may include:
- Truck maintenance companies
- Cargo loading companies
- Shipping agencies
- Manufacturers of truck parts
- Other drivers
It is possible for people to still sustain major injuries when they are involved in crashes with trailers that have underride guards.
Safety Tips for Underride Wrecks
When you are following a commercial truck, you should avoid tailgating. Follow at a safe distance, allowing room to stop if necessary. You certainly want to avoid any possibility of an underride accident caused by not giving yourself enough stopping distance.
Trucking companies can do their part to reduce underride accidents by installing functional underride guards. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) take action on safety recommendations related to side, front, and rear underride protection systems.
Cars versus Truck Underride Accidents
Whenever a smaller passenger vehicle collides with a truck, the resulting injuries and damage are likely to be significant. Because the impact in an underride accident usually occurs at the head and neck level for the occupants, injuries are often severe, including traumatic brain injuries, quadriplegia, paraplegia, or decapitation.
Underride accidents involving commercial trucks are complicated to resolve. If you have been involved in a truck accident in Indiana, you will need an experienced Indianapolis truck accident lawyer to investigate the accident and hold the trucking company and at-fault parties accountable.
The common element in both car accidents and underride crash cases concerns liability. After any motor vehicle accident in Indiana, a person will only be able to recover damages if he or she is less than 50 percent at fault for the crash. A person who is 50 percent or more at fault for an accident cannot recover any damages.
When a person is less than 50 percent at fault, they are still allowed to file a lawsuit, but their damages can be reduced in proportion to their degree of negligence. This means that if you were awarded $100,000 in an underride accident that you were found to have been 10 percent at fault for, your award will be reduced by $10,000, and you would receive $90,000.
When to Call an Underride Accident Lawyer
If you sustained catastrophic injuries or your loved one was killed in an underride accident in Indianapolis or a surrounding area of Marion County, do not delay in contacting Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC. Our law firm takes pride in helping people following truck accidents and doing all we can to help people overcome serious injuries and move forward with their lives.
It is in your best interest to get an attorney involved in your case as quickly as you are possible. While Indiana gives an accident victim up to two years to file a legal claim, you do not want to wait and risk possibly losing out on valuable evidence available immediately after a crash.
When you hire the underride truck accident attorney at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC, you get an entire team of attorneys who will put all of their experience and knowledge to work for you. Call (317) 545-1760 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation.