When a passenger vehicle collides with the rear end of a commercial truck, the car can slide underneath, getting wedged there. As a result, drivers and passengers in the front can suffer horrific injuries and quite often death. At Slappey & Sadd, our truck accident lawyers in Georgia hold companies accountable when their trucks injure or kill one of our clients.The Anatomy of an Underride Accident
The typical underride accident unfolds after a large truck stops suddenly. A passenger vehicle following behind does not have sufficient time to brake and avoid a crash. Instead, the car drives straight into the back of the trailer.
Because the trailer on a commercial truck is elevated several feet, the vehicle slides under. However, the bottom ledge of the trailer typically impacts the roof of the car, smashing it into the car or peeling it back like the lid of a can. Unfortunately, those seated in the front can also suffer a devastating, direct impact. It is not unusual for those riding in the front to be killed in an underride accident, especially in that happens at high speeds.How Truckers Cause Underride Accidents
Sometimes, the passenger vehicle following behind the big rig is responsible for the crash because they were following too closely or not paying attention. These drivers are responsible for their own crashes and have no one else to blame but themselves.
However, truck drivers also can contribute to underrides. For example, truck drivers might:
- Fail to yield
- Stop suddenly because they are driving erratically
- Pull aggressively in front of a vehicle
- Drift into an adjacent lane on a multi-lane highway
Many truck drivers make critical errors because they are driving without sufficient rest or because they are operating their rigs while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In these situations, the truck driver is negligent if not reckless and is certainly to blame for the underride crash.Underride Injuries
Unsurprisingly, injuries are most common in the upper body, which suffers most of the direct impact in an underride. Common injuries in underride accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Neck injuries
- Facial disfigurement
- Bruising and injured facial muscles
- Fractures in the face
- Ear and eye injuries
If a passenger tries to protect herself with her hands, then she can also injure her forearms, shoulders, and hands as well. Generally, the faster the car is traveling, the more likely serious injuries will occur.Safety Measures
Underrides have been a problem for as long as big rigs have been on the road. In the 1950s, the federal government issued a standard for underride guards, which are supposed to prevent vehicles from wedging underneath the trailer. The guard—which is typically a straight bar that hangs beneath the trailer—was initially required to be 30 inches off the ground. Later rules lowered the bar so that it sat less than 2 feet from the ground. In theory, this guard should block or stop vehicles from going under the trailer by hitting the car’s front bumper.
Whether these guards are effective is open to debate. For example, one study performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) showed that a Chevy Malibu driven at only 35 miles per hour broke through an underride guard and slid under the trailer of a parked big rig. According to the study, the underride guard completely failed in the crash. As a result, IIHS petitioned the federal government to require that truck companies use stronger guards to protect motorists.
The trucking industry also dislikes underride guards, arguing that they are too expensive and that the better safety course is to prevent accidents in the first place. The trucking industry has a lot of lobbying power and often gets its way to the detriment of public safety. Removing underride guards altogether seems like an unrealistic "remedy" to a serious problem. Fortunately, the federal government continues to require guards, and some states have taken steps to require more durable underride guards.Grisly Statistics
Because of their size and speed, tractor-trailers cause more than their fair share of serious injuries and deaths each year. Underride accidents, in particular, injure hundreds:
- In 2008-2009, 977 truckers were struck in the rear that resulted in fatalities. This represented 13% of all truck fatalities.
- Almost three in four rear-end collisions involving trucks and light vehicles had some underride.
- In cases where the following vehicle experienced some underride, the guard rode all the way up to the windshield in about half of all cases.
- Around 55.4% of trucks involved in fatal accidents from 2008-2009 had rear underride guards.
As you can see, underride guards offer some protection, but they do not completely eliminate the danger of riding under a vehicle. For this reason, motorists must exercise extreme diligence when following big rigs on the road. Give yourself a couple of extra seconds of cushion and be prepared to stop at a moment's notice.Seeking Compensation
If you or a family member has been injured in an underride accident, you should contact a Georgia truck accident attorney immediately. At Slappey & Sadd, our Georgia truck accident lawyers know how to investigate and prosecute these cases so that our clients receive the compensation they need.
Our clients have received money damages for a host of economic and non-economic losses, including:
- Past, present, and future medical care
- Past, present, and future lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (negative changes to your marriage)
If a loved one has died in a crash, then surviving family members might be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, which can provide compensation for:
- The wages and benefits your loved was expected to earn to support the family
- The loss of care and companionship now that your loved one is gone
The estate can also receive reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills to treat your loved one after the underride accident, and any pain and suffering your loved one endured before death. To learn more, schedule a consultation with a truck accident lawyer in Georgia.