Tractor Trailer Underride Accident Attorney
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
An underride accident occurs when a passenger car, usually its front, collides with a large truck or the trailer of a tractor-trailer and runs under the truck or trailer. The undercarriage of a passenger car is usually less then 30 inches off the ground, whereas the bed of a tractor-trailer is typically over 45 inches above the ground. In an underride accident, the passenger car can go under the trailer, sometimes shearing off the roof and killing the occupants inside.
Every year, thousands of people are killed in rear underride and about 500 people are killed in side underride collisions. Since 1993, trucks have been required to place reflective tape on the rear and sides of trailers. And in 1996, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required rear underride guards at 22 inches above the ground effective as of January 1998.
Unfortunately, dirt on trucks often cover the reflective tape and the requirement for underride guards applies only to new trucks, so a high number of trucks on our roads have not been retrofitted with them. And in some cases, underride guards are not strong enough to stop passenger car’s engine blocks, preventing cars from underriding in rear collisions. And the NHTSA has as of yet not begun to require side underride guards.
There are many reasons why underride accidents continue to occur. Conditions that increase the chance that an underride accident will occur include:
- A poorly marked truck parked on the side of the road, slowing to exit the road, moving slowly as it enters the road, slowing to exit the road, or slowing for a railroad crossing.
- A slow moving truck creates less contrast than a faster moving truck, and will be hard to perceive as an obstruction.
- Realizing too late at night that the truck in front is moving much slower and is much closer and than they had perceived.
- A failure by the truck driver to use reflective triangles when broken down or parked on or near the road.
- A failure by the truck driver to use emergency flashers when exiting or entering the highway at slow speeds.
- Broken, dim, or dirty taillights; taillights that are very close together.
- As an approaching driver's eyes adapt to bright ambient lights, a "black hole" in the nearby unlit road is created, making it difficult for a driver to see a trailer.
- Poor road lighting can make it difficult to see the outline of a trailer, especially if it is dark colored.
- Weather like snow, fog, or rain reduces visibility. Snow and fog can also mask the white or gray color of many trucks.
- Slick road conditions, which increase the stopping distance for a car approaching a tractor trailer.
Additionally, a truck driver that tries to back across traffic, make a U-turn, or cross onto a street or highway increases the danger of a potential side underride truck accident. While the truck driver may assume that the truck is visible to on-coming drivers as the truck crosses the road, the truck driver may actually inadvertently be creating an optical illusion which on-coming drivers may not discern until it is too late.
The nature of underride truck accidents tends to make them fatal, or result in very serious consequences. If your family or someone you know was involved in an underride collision, urge them to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Motor vehicle accident cases involving trucks can be complex and take time to develop. There may also be applicable statutes of limitations, or time limits by which a lawsuit must be filed. Please call or email us to help you find an experienced truck accident attorney in your area.