Articles Posted in Underride Accidents

Earlier this month, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a written opinion affirming a lower court’s award of $1,200,000 to the family of a woman who was killed in a truck accident. In the case, Quilez-Velar v. Ox Bodies, Inc., the plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a woman who was killed when the vehicle she was driving struck a semi-truck from the rear and “underrode” the truck.

Tanker TruckWhat Is an Under-Ride Accident?

Whenever a car crashes into the rear of a semi-truck or other large vehicle, there is a chance that the car will squeeze underneath the bottom of the truck. This is especially dangerous to motorists, since in doing so the car’s cabin is crushed, almost always resulting in serious injury or death. To help prevent under-ride accidents, federal law requires that truck companies install under-ride guards on their vehicles.

The Facts of the Case

Back in 2010, the deceased was driving her Jeep Liberty on the highway when she collided with a slowing semi-truck from behind. As the two vehicles collided, the Jeep went under the body of the truck, and the rear of the truck ended up entering the cabin of the Jeep. As a result of the accident, the driver of the Jeep was killed.

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The next time you hit a fog bank, encounter white-out blizzard conditions or get stuck in a torrential rain storm, please remember that the prudent course of action is to slow down, turn on your emergency flashers and be prepared for any and all possible accident situations. This is not always easy, even for experienced drivers like police officers, EMS drivers and truckers, but it’s a wise idea to be prepared.

As Maryland auto accident attorneys and personal injury lawyers, we have seen the results of too many car, truck and motorcycle accidents not to take seriously any circumstances that can even remotely lead to a traffic crash or roadway collision involving cars, bikes or commercial trucks. Don’t let you or a loved one become just another line in a list of highway accident statistics and please use caution when poor weather strikes.

This advice goes as much to drivers of private vehicles as it does to professional truck drivers. In fact, in many cases, a commercial truck that loses control on a slippery stretch of roadway can cause much more serious and extensive damage to people and property that any passenger car, minivan or sport utility vehicle ever could.

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The next time you’re out on the road, this story might make you think twice about following an 18-wheeler. While most people may associate fatal trucking-related traffic accidents with a smaller car, minivan or SUV being struck by a much larger and heavier semi tractor-trailer rig or commercial delivery truck, hundreds of people nationwide die every year as a result of passenger cars running into the rear of semi trailers.

As Baltimore auto accident attorneys and personal injury lawyers, we understand how severe these so-called under-ride accidents can be. And without the proper under-ride protection on the rear end of a long-haul trailer, the occupants in the passenger car can easily be decapitated during the collision. Fatal traffic crashes of this sort don’t necessarily have to be high-speed incidents either.

At the very least, cuts, bruises and broken bones are possible as a result of an under-ride collision. Worse still, neck and spinal injury can occur, as can traumatic brain injury. Depending on the circumstances, some individuals who survive this type of wreck can be paralyzed and require weeks or months of physical therapy to bring them back to something approaching a normal life.

Families of victims can end up suffering financially long after their loved one has been hurt or killed. This is especially true when the victim is a primary wage earning for the family. The news today indicates that the under-ride prevention methods and structures used on many tractor-trailers may prove inadequate when they are actually needed in a crash. Poorly designed parts or incorrectly installed components could result in a much more serious outcome for a drive hitting the back of a trailer.

According to the news, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducted tests using a properly-fitted under-ride preventer on a semi trailer and found that federal standards for these rear under-ride guards should be made stricter. Based on video shown by various news outlets, it appears that the IIHS has a point.

In one of the IIHS videos, a Chevy Malibu impacts the rear of a tractor-trailer at 35mph. Even though the Malibu has a 5-star safety ranking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the semi trailer is fitted with a conforming under-ride guard, the front seat passengers could likely have been killed as a result that crash. As the reporter states, hitting a brick wall would actually be safer.

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In the early morning hours of June 29, a car carrying three adults and two children traveled down U.S. Highway 90 in Mississippi heading towards New Orleans. At approximately 2:25 a.m., the car crashed into the rear of a tractor trailer that slowed to spray mosquito fogger. The car underrode the semi, the trailer sheered through the car’s passenger compartment instantly killing the three adults in the front seat. The children fortunately survived the accident with minor injuries.

A truck “underride” collision occurs when a passenger car crashes into the rear of the tractor trailer and slides underneath the trailer. As a result, the trailer crushes or sheers away the top of the automobile, often killing the passengers. Victims who are not killed during underride accidents are likely to suffer severe brain trauma or extensive facial fractures. In litigating Maryland truck accidents, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have researched the underride accidents and ways to prevent them.

Readers of a certain generation will remember that the accident described above was the terrible crash that killed actress, Jayne Mansfield, her fiancée and driver in 1967. If the truck had been equipped with rear guards, Mansfield’s car may not have slid underneath the trailer and the actress and her companions may not have been killed. Rear guards or underride guards are the bars that hang below a trailer and have been required on tractor trailers since 1953. More recently, however, the federal government determined how to best configure underride guards. In 1998, after years of testing, the National Federal Highway Administration released standards regarding the proper configuration for rear impact guards on trailers.

Under federal regulations, rear guards must extend the entire width of the trailer, must be no more than 22 inches off the pavement, and must not be more than 12 inches from the rear of the trailer. Properly constructed and configured, underride guards are capable of absorbing a force of over 4,000 pounds per foot. This translates to the force generated by a passenger vehicle traveling approximately 30 miles per hour.

Underride guards, however, do not protect cars traveling at high rates of speed or passenger vehicles that strike a trailer from the side. As always, Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC reminds its clients to drive with care at all times, but particularly around eighteen wheelers.

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