Articles Posted in Underride Accidents

Accidents involving semi-trucks can occur at any time of day and in any weather condition. But when wet weather and slippery road conditions make roads unsafe, the chances of collisions between cars and trucks increase. Underride accidents, where smaller passenger cars collide with large trailers and trucks are often deadly because the difference in the size of the vehicles causes a car to become compressed under the trailer, either from the side or behind the trailer, and sometimes even from the front in a head-on collision. A car can become involved in a side underride accident when a semi-truck or tractor-trailer is turning and the driver does not see the truck in their path or the driver assumes the truck will leave its path sooner than it does. While large trucks are required to have rear underride guards to prevent cars from sliding under the rear of the vehicle in the case of a collision, there is not currently a similar requirement for side underride guards, increasing the likelihood of a devastating accident.

A recent example involves an accident on a slippery road that caused a car to crash into big-rig trailer as it was making a turn into the left lane, resulting in the car sliding under the trailer and becoming wedged between the road and the trailer, flattening the roof of the car. In this instance, the driver of the car was alive and conscious at the time that first responders got to the scene and was transported to the hospital. While his condition was not reported, it is likely that the driver will face a long journey toward recovery and significant medical bills. However, if the truck had side underride guards, the accident would likely have been less serious.

In 2019, bipartisan efforts in the Senate led to the introduction of the Stop Underrides Act, requiring front, rear, and side underride guards for certain trucks and trailers. But as of now, it has not been passed. In cases where an underride accident may have been prevented if there was an appropriate underride guard installed, victims or their families may be inclined to sue for damages. The impact of losing a loved one or losing one’s freedom due to a severe injury does not come with a price, but there are significant costs that come with a major accident. For those costs, victims should be entitled to receive full compensation for their physical and emotional losses, whether it is loss of mobility, independence, or loss of life itself.

Tragedy recently struck when a 32-year-old woman was instantly killed in a truck accident. According to a local news article covering the accident, the incident occurred when the victim, a 32-year-old woman, driving a Jeep failed to respond to oncoming traffic and ran directly into the rear of a semi-tractor trailer in front of her. She was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. While truck accidents occur all the time, this type of accident was a particular type called an “underride crash,” which can be especially fatal for Maryland residents.

An underride crash is a particular type of accident where a car slides underneath a large truck or semi-trailer. These crashes happen all across the country, including Maryland, and are often fatal, killing hundreds of people every year. While some large trucks have underride guards on them – large metal barriers at the back to stop vehicles from sliding under—research has found that these often fail to protect drivers. The guards tend to collapse and bend under when a car runs into them.

Congress has attempted to stop underride crashes. In March of 2019, the STOP Underrides Bill was introduced into Congress, which would allow engineers to put more effective protections on every truck, helping to end preventable tragedies. However, the bill has not been passed. In fact, according to a petition supporting the bill, it’s been 22 years since the last underride regulation was passed. In that time, more than 4,000 people have died in these tragic accidents.

Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving an evidentiary ruling that precluded the plaintiff’s proposed expert witnesses from testifying. The case is relevant in Maryland truck accident cases because it illustrates how courts determine whether an expert’s testimony will be admissible and, thus, able to be considered by the jury.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and her infant son were involved in a semi-truck accident. During the accident, the plaintiff’s vehicle was dragged under the side of the semi-truck’s trailer in what is known as a “side underride accident.” The plaintiff suffered serious brain damage as a result of the accident, and filed a personal injury case against several parties.

This particular case involved the lawsuit filed by the plaintiff against the manufacturer of the trailer. The plaintiff planned on presenting testimony of an alternate design that would have prevented, or at least mitigated, the plaintiff’s injuries through two expert witnesses. The expert witnesses intended on testifying about a telescoping side guard, which expands to protect other areas of the truck in the event that the truck’s sliding axle is in the rear position.

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Any time a motorist is involved in a Maryland semi-truck accident, there is a potential for serious injury. However, some types of accidents present a higher risk of serious injury or death than others. Underride accidents in particular present an especially high risk of serious injury or death.

An underride accident occurs when a vehicle slides underneath a larger truck. These accidents often result in the passengers in the car being crushed as a result of the impact, and in some cases, passengers are even decapitated. A recent news article discusses underride accidents in the Maryland area, noting that there have been 21 deaths across the country over the past two months due to this specific type of accident.

The article goes on to detail several of the accidents and discusses options to reduce the prevalence of underride accidents. Given the nature of an underride accident, they almost always occur when a motorist rear-ends a truck that has unexpectedly stopped or slowed down on the highway. Thus, one potential solution to decrease underride accidents is to mandate heavier underride guards on more types of trucks. An underride guard is a steel bar that in many cases can prevent another vehicle from sliding underneath a truck in the event of an accident.

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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.

What 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 Personal Injury Lawyers 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 Personal Injury Lawyers reminds its clients to drive with care at all times, but particularly around eighteen wheelers.

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