Underride Truck Accidents

An underride accident occurs when a passenger vehicle ends up on the underside of a large truck during a collision, often resulting in devastating head and neck injuries or death. The underride truck accident attorneys at The Lanier Law Firm are dedicated to helping underride accident victims recover the maximum compensation available.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that an average of 219 fatalities from underride truck accidents occurred every year from 2008 through 2017, and this number is likely to be underreported due to variability in state and local data collection. Underride accidents are among the most violent and horrific automobile accidents that occur.

What are the most common causes of underride accidents?

Underride accidents occur when passenger vehicles collide with trucks from the rear, front or sides. Rear underride accidents are the most common. These accidents often involve flatbed trucks and semis, and they frequently occur as a result of a truck’s lack of visibility and weak or lacking impact guards.

Lack of Visibility

The common gray coloration of trucks matches the road, making them hard to see in certain conditions, such as the following, according to Transportation Construction Environmental Insurance Services, Inc. in Staten Island, New York:

  • Sunny days, due to the glare
  • Adverse weather conditions, including rain, snow and fog
  • Nighttime

Missing, dirty or non-functional lights, reflectors or blinkers on the truck further reduce visibility. Road Safety USA has also noted that underride accidents can occur in multi-vehicle crash situations, where one vehicle pushes another into the rear, front or sides of the truck.

Insufficient Impact Guards

Commercial trucks are typically equipped with rear impact guards, but they lack sufficient strength to prevent a striking vehicle from going under the truck. The result is that when a passenger vehicle strikes a truck, the impact guard collapses upon impact and allows the colliding vehicle to continue its trajectory under the truck.

On June 30, 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it will start requiring trucks to install enhanced rear guards that are strong enough to withstand the impact of most passenger vehicles. This is expected to go into effect at the end of December 2022, but the trucking industry has been fighting this important safety reform and has the right to petition for reconsideration.

There is no federal requirement for trucks to use side underride guards. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommends a mandate for side underride guards after its own studies showed that they have the potential to save lives. The GAO officially recommended that the NHTSA conduct additional research into the effectiveness of side underride guards, and the NHTSA has agreed to do so.

The resistance by trucking companies to installing this relatively simple safety device underscores the fact that trucking companies prioritize profits over safety. They will not take steps to prevent these horrific accidents until they are forced to do so through regulations or lawsuits.

How can I avoid an underride accident?

Road Safety USA recommends that passenger vehicle drivers take the following precautions to prevent underride accidents:

  • Maintain a safe following distance when driving behind large trucks
  • Avoid becoming sandwiched between two large trucks.
  • When passing a large truck on a multi-lane road, proceed as quickly as possible to minimize the time spent alongside it.

Devastating Injuries in Underride Truck Accidents

The primary danger in underride crashes is the potential for the truck to intrude into the passenger compartment. The most common scenario is for the roof of the car to be sheared off as it proceeds under the truck and becomes crushed.

The height of the truck in relation to most passenger vehicles results in impact occurring at about the same height as a passenger’s head. This can result in severe head and neck injuries, crushing injuries and even decapitations. Severe burns can also occur if either vehicle ignites.

Who is liable for my injuries?

Underride crashes can be caused by the negligence of one or more of the following:

  • Trucking companies
  • Truck drivers
  • Other drivers
  • Vehicle parts manufacturers
  • Tire manufacturers
  • Government entities responsible for road maintenance

If the truck driver is at fault for the accident, the trucking company is vicariously liable under California and New York law. In Texas, the liability of a truck driver does not automatically transfer to the trucking company. The trucking company’s liability must be tried separately after negligence by the truck driver has been established.

You May Be Entitled to Substantial Compensation

Victims of underride accidents typically suffer significant damages due to the devastating nature of these accidents. Available compensation includes the following:

Economic damages - Objective monetary losses

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Cost of services

Non-economic damages - Subjective non-monetary damages

  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Loss of capacity to enjoy life
  • Mental anguish

Punitive damages

Non-compensatory damages awarded as a punishment against a defendant whose conduct was deliberate or reckless, such as a drunk driver

In Texas, punitive damages are limited to the greater of $200,000 or the sum of the non-economic damages up to $750,000. California and New York impose no such limits. These caps do not apply if the driver is charged with intoxication-related manslaughter.

How long will it take to receive compensation?

The length of time it takes to receive compensation is specific to each case and depends on several factors, including the following:

  • Whether the case settles or goes to court
  • The severity and complexity of the injuries
  • The venue where the case is tried
  • The reasonableness of the opposing party

New York is a no-fault state, which allows accident victims to receive some of their compensation quickly. Since New York requires drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection, truck accident victims can file a claim against their own no-fault insurance to quickly recover the following economic damages:

  • Partial wage
  • replacement
  • Medical expenses

If your injuries meet New York’s definition of serious, New York truck accident victims can also file a claim against the negligent party. The no-fault statute defines serious injuries as follows:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • A fracture
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss of use or limitation of bodily organs, functions or systems
  • Disability that lasts a minimum of 90 days during the first 180 days preceding the accident

Can I recover compensation if I am partly responsible for the accident?

Partial fault in an accident does not bar compensation, except in Texas if your share of fault exceeds 50 percent. In all cases where you share fault, your compensation will be reduced proportionately. Compensation is not impacted when obtained through New York’s no-fault insurance.

When should I contact an underride accident attorney?

You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. California and Texas impose statutes of limitations of two years after the accident, and New York’s limit is three years. An experienced personal injury attorney performs numerous tasks that require a significant investment of time, which must be completed before the case can be filed. These include the following:

  • A forensic reconstruction and analysis of the accident
  • Retrieval and review of medical records
  • Consultations with medical experts and other expert witnesses
  • Interviews with eyewitnesses
  • Consultations with life care planners
  • Detailed analysis and calculations of the lifetime cost of your injuries

These tasks are best performed during the initial aftermath of the accident to ensure the evidence is untainted and witness recall is intact.

What should I do if my family member died in an underride accident?

In the devastating loss of a loved one due to an underride accident, family members are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s estate. In California and Texas, immediate family members may file this claim. In New York, the claim must be filed by a personal representative, usually the executor of the estate.

While no amount of compensation can make up for the loss of a loved one, it can relieve the family of medical debts incurred because of the accident and restore financial losses precipitated by the death. The following compensation may be available:

  • Economic damages
    • Medical expenses of the diseased
    • Funeral and burial expenses
    • Pecuniary losses (projected lifetime income of the deceased)
    • Lost inheritance
  • Non-economic damages
    • Pain and suffering of the deceased
      • This is only temporarily available in California, applying to wrongful deaths that occur between January 1, 2022, and January 1, 2026.
    • Pain, suffering, grief and mental anguish of the family
    • Loss of relationship benefits, such as:
      • Loss of consortium
      • Loss of parental guidance
      • Loss of companionship
  • Punitive damages that would have been claimable by the deceased had they survived

Proceeds are awarded to the estate and distributed to the immediate family or next of kin as specified by statute.

How can an underride truck accident lawyer help me with my case?

An underride truck accident attorney has experience with the legal system, knowledge of medical terminology and an understanding of the true lifetime costs associated with severe injuries. At The Lanier Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys have more than 30 years of experience standing up to insurance companies on behalf of injury victims.

Why is The Lanier Law Firm the best choice?

The Lanier Law Firm has earned the prestigious Tier 1 Best Law Firms Ranking by U.S. News & World Report and was recognized with the Most Impressive Plaintiff Verdict of the Year award. Many of our attorneys have been recognized as Super Lawyers by Thomson Reuters and Best Lawyers in America by Best Lawyers/BL Rankings. Our founder, Mark Lanier, has been honored as Trial Lawyer of the Year and is recognized as one of the 50 Most Influential Lawyers in America.

These recognitions would mean nothing had they not come about as a result of the remarkable results we have been able to achieve on behalf of our worthy clients. Our law firm is proud to have won billions of dollars on behalf of our clients since our establishment in 1990. These results are no accident. They were achieved because of our compassion, skill and work ethic.

We have locations in Houston, Los Angeles and New York City, and we accept underride truck accident cases throughout all three states.

How much does it cost to hire a personal injury attorney?

The Lanier Law Firm highly values the client-attorney relationship and is committed to ensuring every accident victim who is entitled to compensation has access to high-caliber representation. We do this by offering a contingency fee agreement, which means you pay a percentage of the compensation we recover for you. If we fail to recover compensation, you owe us nothing.

Without an attorney, you may receive minimal or no compensation. The cost of hiring The Lanier Law Firm is much lower than the cost of self-representation. You risk nothing by retaining us, but the longer you wait, the closer the statute of limitations looms. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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