What Are Underride Accidents?

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Driving next to 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks in Florida can be dangerous. Every year, truck accidents take thousands of lives across the U.S. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported 4,657 fatal accidents involving large trucks in 2017. Even a prudent driver could get stuck between two semis in heavy traffic or run off the road by a distracted truck driver. One of the most catastrophic types of trucking accidents is an underride accident.

Types of Underride Accidents

A truck underride accident occurs when a passenger vehicle crashes into a semi and slides beneath its trailer. Underride accidents often result in catastrophic injuries and deaths within the passenger vehicle. Striking the trailer of a semi at high speed could cause the vehicle to wedge beneath the tractor-trailer, often smashing in the top of the car and crushing its occupants. Depending on the accident, the bed of the trailer could come through the windshield, causing injuries to the brain or decapitation. Both types of underride accidents can be serious.

  • Rear underride collision. One of the two main types of underride accidents happens during a rear-end collision. If a passenger vehicle rear-ends a tractor-trailer, the front of the smaller car could slide beneath the truck’s trailer. These accidents may stem from a driver’s inattention, a truck driver slamming on the brakes, or a truck that is missing its rear lights or reflective strips.
  • Side underride collisions. A side underride accident occurs when a passenger vehicle crashes into the side of a trailer. Small vehicles may fit beneath the trailer enough for the trailer to cause impact injuries to the vehicles’ occupants. Side underride collisions often happen in sun-angle collisions, as was the case in two self-driving vehicle deaths involving Teslas. Improving truck visibility during the day and in low light could help prevent these accidents.

Underride accidents are some of the deadliest trucking accidents on the road. If someone does survive an underride accident, he or she may suffer serious and debilitating injuries: spinal cord injuries, paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, multiple bone fractures, internal organ damage and lacerations. Elements that could contribute to underride accidents include weather, visibility, truck maintenance and driver inattention.

If you were a victim of an underride accident and it wasn’t your fault, contact our Florida truck accident attorneys. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Rear Guard Requirements

A rear impact guard can help prevent rear underride accidents from occurring. With a rear guard, vehicles may collide with the guard rather than slide beneath the trailer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires rear impact guards on all trailers manufactured after January 1998 that weigh 10,000 pounds or more. Rear guards must extend to within four inches of both sides of the vehicle. The height between the bottom of the guard and the ground cannot exceed 22 inches at any point across the guard’s width. However, the NHTSA does not require trucks to install side guards.

How To Avoid an Underride Accident

As a motor vehicle driver in Florida, you can take steps to reduce your chances of being in an underride truck accident. Underride accidents can happen when the driver of the vehicle is not paying attention to the road. Do not text and drive or engage in other activities that could distract you from the road ahead. Keep a reasonable speed and do not weave between cars or trucks. Always maintain an adequate amount of space between your car and large trucks.

If you suffer a serious injury or a loved one dies in an underride accident, the trucking company may owe you compensation for the accident. Even if it was your vehicle that impacted the rear or the side of the truck, the company could be liable if it reasonably could have prevented the collision. If it broke the federal rear guard requirement, for example, or failed to repair broken taillights, the trucking company could be responsible for the collision. A lawsuit against the company could result in the recovery of your damages. Contact Kelley | Uustal’s experienced Fort Lauderdale accident attorneys. We can help.